Book Review – Grace and the Guiltless

Grace and the GuiltlessGrace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Warning to self: I have been reading so many weird books lately, I may need my brain rewired.

Do you remember The Quick and the Dead? That movie with Sharon Stone, a young Russell Crowe, an even younger Leonardo di Caprio and even Gary Sinise (albeit at the end of a rope)? This is not that movie.

They share similarities, for sure, like a blonde seeking vengeance for her family and the good preacher dude, but that’s about it. This book simply lacks the suave, gritty feel of the film. This is more like Shanghai Knights, only with Jackie Chan as a teenage girl on crack. I haven’t watched many westerns, but this book has ensured I probably never will. I don’t think I will ever be able to hear the word revenge or Western without thinking of the phenomenal stupidity of the protagonist.

Grace, I first thought, was sensible. She hides from the Guiltless Gang when she’s supposed to, approaches the authorities and so on. But she rapidly spirals out of control after a few pages. There may be an equation detailing the inverse proportionality of Grace’s desire for revenge to her good sense. She goes off into the desert to take down a gang full of grown, armed men with only a horse. She doesn’t take food, water or even an extra bullet with her. She keeps on having near death experiences and doesn’t stop to think that she might need preparation. The idiot can’t even count – she has three bullets in the beginning and there are six in the Gang. Grace?
Disgrace to teenagers.

There is also an incident with a bear which had me applauding and throwing confetti at the bear. The bear knew enough to run. Grace doesn’t think enough to…wait, this quote sums it up: “It was bad enough that she was light-headed – she didn’t need to add to it.”

Then you should try not to be so stupid. But she gets better…after 190 pages. In a 270 page book. And then she gets too much better, so that we start wondering if Joe graduated from the Shaolin Temple of wild westerns. If you can train her…

The other thing driving me mad was the romance, which is the epitome of FUTILE. Let’s face it folks, Joe is a tool. Grace uses him to get the skills and emotional support she needs and tosses him like yesterday’s newspaper when it suits her. As a typical YA couple, they dance around each other (at one point, literally), flush and blush like powder puffs and take several attempts to get a kiss right. All for nothing.

I get that revenge/justice is the priority in Grace’s life. It’s not easy to watch such cold-blooded murder and not want some kind of retribution. I’m just not sure that this is the message the book wants to be giving. When revenge becomes the focus of life, there’s nothing left after you get it. Which is why most doctors don’t prescribe it. But Grace is not being helped by the fact that the people who are advising peace don’t practice it. This book keeps shooting itself in the foot. The Ndeh say “Zen, revenge is not cool” and begin scalping people before they’ve even finished the sentence. It’s really unfair to deny the heroine closure when they seem to be getting plenty of it.

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The pacing is utterly terrible. In favour of teaching us the wondrous ways of the Ndeh, the plot goes on and on about Grace’s training and taboo breaking. The author’s sentiment about spreading awareness is appreciated, but why is the hero a white guy then? And why does he excel at Native Indian activities to the point of overshadowing the Indians themselves? There’s so much whitewashing, every Indian and his grandmother speaks some English.

The writing is pretty standard. Not horrible or anything, but you feel like it’s aimed at middle graders. Until the villain invites the heroine for a threesome. Then it just plain disappoints.

So do yourself a favour and use this book for target practice. Don’t even bother to quick draw; it moves very sluggishly.

*All quotes taken from ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*


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