Melancholy (Book 2 of the Cure) by Charlotte McConaghy

Book One, Fury, was a surprising favorite for me last year. The story was full of mystery, different in an interesting way, and certainly the antidote to the rash of saccharine dystopians popular at the time. Book Two, Melancholy, eschews the mystery and worldbuilding in favor of humorous snark and a larger cast of (for the most part) interesting characters. But at the same time, it feels very much like the sophomore in the series – a ‘between’ book padded with a few extra side plots in order to prepare for a third book. I enjoyed the read but missed the world building and mystery of the first book.

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Story: Josephine is free from her transformation but has a comatose Luke in tow and a rebel camp to win over. As she makes new friends and enemies there, she finds that things are not quite as white washed as she was led to believe. It soon becomes apparent that the camp may be no better than the City she just left.

Most problematic is that the storyline reads very familiar: unique snowflake girl flees dystopian city to rebel camp – only to find that the rebels are just as bad as the city folk. Haven’t we seen that in nearly every recent dystopian from Hunger games to Divergent? A very long subplot of murders happening at the camp felt unnecessary and forced; they could have been extricated and we’d have a more streamlined story. By the time discussion comes back to stopping the Cure, it felt like no one even cared any more.

The first book had a great narrator in Anthony – his pathos was a great counterbalance to Josephine’s reticence and gave the story heart. But with book two, we’re given a new narrator in the form of catty Raven – she wants Josephine’s Luke and is not afraid to get annoying about it. Her motivations felt shallow and petty; she’s meant to be flawed and conflicted but somehow felt like every mean girl in high school instead. Her drama queen antics got old fast and she just didn’t feel real at all. Certainly, she was no foil for Josephine.

Josi’s insecurity and Luke’s resilience in book one are traded for a comatose Luke and a cautious Josi in this book. The cast of new characters at the camp were welcome – the banter and snark was amusing and several times I smiled or chuckled while reading. But the inert plot didn’t make up for the great dialogue and especially by the middle, it felt like the book wouldn’t end. Fury defied so many expectations and felt so original; I just didn’t get that impression from Melancholy.

The third portion of the book (episode three) ends on a cliffhanger – so I am going to assume we will get a book 3. I am hoping the story steamlines a bit and doesn’t fall into cliche territory as much as this book did. In all, I enjoyed it but admittedly felt the first book was much better.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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