I'm going to condense the full review from my website a bit.
"Become" by Ali Cross left me feeling really conflicted. I came across this book while tripping through various author websites during a YA Scavenger Hunt. The cover grabbed me instantly, and I ended up clicking on it, reading the description, and purchasing the book since it sounded intriguing. I love YA paranormal books and angels/fallen angels have been prevalent in the genre over the last couple of years. This looked like a really different take on the theme, with the whole concept of Lucifer's daughter being our protagonist. It turns out it IS different - so different I'm not really sure what to think.
Desolation, or Desi as she likes to be called, has been sent to Earth to live with one of Lucifer's minions, Daniel, and his son, James, so she can receive some in-depth training on manipulating and corrupting humans. As part of her assignment, Lucifer orders her to bring him the soul of a young girl named Miri who attends the school Desi is being sent to. When they meet, however, Desi is drawn to Miri more as a friend and confidante than as a corrupter. When she finds out Miri is dating James, Desi tries to get Miri to realize he is not good for her; after all, she has seen his sins first-hand. Desi's life is further complicated when she finds herself drawn to another student at the school, Michael, who seems very familiar and also seems to recognize her. Will Desi defy Lucifer and help Miri? Why is she so drawn to Michael? And how can she avoid "Becoming" just like her father?
This is billed as a YA paranormal, but I never felt like I was reading about young adults. I kept forgetting the fact that Desi, Miri, Michael, and James were teenagers. Every one of them came across as much older and it was only when their ages were mentioned that I recalled they were supposed to be 16 to 18-year-olds. Even in school sequences, I frequently felt like they were older than they were supposed to be.
I also wasn't too sure what to make of Desi. She is strong and able to hold her own when fighting, but she is a mass of insecurities She was desperate not to "Become" like her father, but she also wanted to return to Hell and embrace a life of darkness because it would be the easiest thing to do. Desi wants to be loved, but also tries not to get close to anyone because she feels she will destroy them. She was a mass of contradictions that made it difficult for me to feel connected to her, but I was eventually able to get a grasp on her as the different threads of the story wove together and her character grew.
As I read, it felt like I was being dropped into the middle of the story and not at the beginning of it. When I got to the final chapters, I realized this is exactly what had happened. Desi, Michael, Lucifer - these were all characters who came with a lot of back story which is fed to the reader bit by bit, with the final chapters pulling it all together. Only Miri and James came without this mass of baggage, but since Miri is struggling with a substance abuse problem and James has issues from the way he was raised they obviously have some carry-on luggage of their own. James actually turned out to be the most intriguing character, since there were hints that there were some real feelings buried inside him. Miri, however, is still very much a mystery with a lot of back story to tell.
Ultimately, I did enjoy this book and I want to know what happens next to these characters. Now that the massive world-building has been accomplished, I think Cross will be able to settle in and focus on character and relationship-building in the next book. Desi, Miri, Michael and James all have myriad ways to grow, but I am especially interested in seeing what happens with Michael and James. However, I don't really know what type of reader to recommend this book to. This is not light reading, it is not the typical angel story, and it had a very adult feel to it. The sin and corruption that Desi and James live with daily gave this story a much darker tone than I am used to in the YA genre.
"Become" is a complex, unusually mature YA paranormal book which twists the angel concept in new directions. The protagonist, Desi, experiences a lot of growth in this novel, while her friends still remain a bit of a mystery. Now that I have seen how everything in this book ties together, I look forward to seeing where Ali Cross takes these characters and if they can hold back the apocalypse planned by Desi's father, Lucifer.