“Cracked – Soul Eater #1” by Eliza Crewe

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“Cracked” has Cool carved into its forearm with a Stanley Knife.

The opening draws Meda, our evil-but-wittily-self-aware more-than-human teenage heroine, in a series of fast, confident, blood-red claw strokes that create an image as clear and succinct as a Kanji.

We start at night, with a crazed, helpless girl, waiting in her cell in a run-down lunatic asylum as an evil guard prepares to pay her a visit.

Except the girl isn’t helpless and she’s a completely different kind of crazed, so soon there is blood everywhere and none of it is hers.

Yet just as I was settling down to a Dexter-meets-teen-girl-soul-eater story, filled with gore and witty banter, new players arrive and the story cracks open into a whole universe of possibilities.

Turns out that all that cool, quietly desperate, slightly self-deprecating, slightly self -congratulatory wrapping contains more complex characters, a mostly-original urban-fantasy universe and a plot that could go anywhere.

We meet suit-wearing evil demons and Harley-riding good-in-their-own-eyes Crusaders, while Meda tries to hide in plain sight in a Crusader highschool which seems more like a SAS training camp.

The action comes in wave after wave, with each wave getting taller and crashing more loudly. In between, Meda finds out what’s really in her past and struggles to work out how “good” she’s capable of being. As we watched her go from, me-first-survival, even if I have to throw one of you to the bears, to I-will-not-let-you-kill-my-friends bravery, I was impressed that what I saw was a rebalancing of a believable person rather than some epiphanal rebirth.

I liked Meda because she’s capable of being truly evil and chooses, mostly, not to be.

The humour kept me smiling but never detracted from the tension for example when Meda has to flee through a sewer and her nose teaches her how foul they really are, she says:

“The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lied to me. Sewers aren’t a cool place to hang and definately not for eating pizza.”

Clichés are skillfully repurposed or called out ironically and then milked with flair.

I got so hooked on this that I read the whole book in a day and didn’t regret a single missed or delayed chore.

This is a Young Adult book that doesn’t patronise its readers, no matter what age they are.

“Cracked” cries out to be an audiobook, Amy MacFadden would nail it, but I can only find ebook copies so I’m faking Amy in my head – that sounded better before I typed it.

“Cracked” is the first book of a trilogy. I’m in need of escape, so I’m going to consume them back to back the ways upset girls on TV eat whole cartons of ice cream.

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