Quick review for a not-so-quick read. Usually Julia Whelan’s narrations engage me enough to get through even the most tedious of books, but I still felt the burn listening to this book on audio. I had some try/fail cycles in picking this one up, finally succeeded in finishing the third time around, and I’m kind of surprised for a fast-paced caper thriller how dull, unimaginative, and notably incomplete it was. That’s a shame, because I’d really looked forward to this read.

Maggie Hall’s “The Conspiracy of Us” focuses on Avery West, a young woman who lives with her mother and can’t get settled into one place at one time. As per “mandates”, her mother moves them from place to place and Avery’s bitterness shows as she finds something of a connection to the one place she’s managed to stay for a time, even to get asked to prom by someone she’s had her eye on for a while. But things aren’t always what they seem, and Avery’s pulled into an international scuffle with people who want to use and manipulate her for their own ends.

“The Conspiracy of Us” suffers much from overuse of YA tropes that are repetitious and underdeveloped, maybe even quite manipulative. Between Avery being the “special” heroine (her purple eyes tell as much since it reveals her link to a powerful group), and her affections being caught between a British and Russian boy who both work for the Circle – I had to swallow a bitter pill of awkward turns of overfocused lust in a love triangle that made no sense and haphazard worldbuilding. To say that Avery’s a key in preventing a possible WW III and manipulating actual historical events without any due expansion and implausible measures really didn’t sit well with me.

I couldn’t connect to the places that Avery traveled or the fashion sense (it wasn’t really immersive in any culture or vivid prose – Hall’s prose is too surface focused). Even the characters themselves were too…shallow, for lack of a better word. Avery was far too passive of a heroine to really root for, Stellan and Jack I struggled to have a connection with despite few humanizing qualities, and even then, they were mostly helping Avery as she waited for them to help her out of messes. The puzzles and some action sequences and harrowing conflicts had potential, and that’s probably what’s keeping me on board to see if the next book in this series improves.

But honestly, I think this book had so much bark and not enough true bite. A shame because it’s actually a really good premise to work with. I wish it had less focus on the silly, manipulative love triangle, and more on the harrowing action/adventure/puzzle/thriller/political game measure that came across in the blurb.

Overall score: 2/5 stars

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