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Unnatural Deeds

Unnatural Deeds

3.9 9
by Cyn Balog

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A novel of infatuation and obsession, Unnatural Deeds has an electrifying ending that readers won't see coming.

Victoria Zell doesn't fit in, not that she cares what anyone thinks. She and her homeschooled boyfriend, Andrew, are inseparable. All they need is each other. That is, until Zachary Zimmerman joins her homeroom. Within an hour


A novel of infatuation and obsession, Unnatural Deeds has an electrifying ending that readers won't see coming.

Victoria Zell doesn't fit in, not that she cares what anyone thinks. She and her homeschooled boyfriend, Andrew, are inseparable. All they need is each other. That is, until Zachary Zimmerman joins her homeroom. Within an hour of meeting, he convinces good-girl Vic to cut class. And she can't get enough of that rush.

Despite Vic's loyalty to Andrew, she finds her life slowly entwining with Z's. Soon she's lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel Z's secrets. Except Z's not the only one with a past.Victoria's hiding her own secrets, secrets that will come back to haunt her...and destroy everything in her path.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Like a PG-13 version of Gone Girl (2012), Balog's (Dead River, 2013, etc.) latest tells the tense and tragic story of three teens mixed up in a world of murder, obsession, and mental illness... A page-turner that will keep readers riveted, this is a treat for mystery fans and will keep readers guessing right up until the end."
" - Kirkus

"Vic's psychological struggle culminates in an unpredictable, shocking ending that most readers will not see coming. This thriller will stay with readers long after the last page."" - School Library Journal

"The compelling story takes hold, leaving readers guessing until the end. The understated dread builds to a tense and tragic climax." - Booklist

"Unnatural Deeds is a compelling, dark confessional with pages that keep you guessing and an ending that willblow you sideways.
" - Natalie D. Richards, author of Six Months Later and One Was Lost

"Readers who enjoyed Need by Joelle Charbonneau or The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison will find this horrific mystery perfectly explosive—this one will require a late night." - Manhattan Book Review

VOYA, December 2016 (Vol. 39, No. 5) - Lauri J. Vaughan
By her own admission, Victoria Zell is tightly wound. An excellent student who is most comfortable when hyper-focused on the task at hand, Vic suffers from high levels of anxiety. The start of a new school year at St. Ann’s private school is not making life any easier and her exaggerated sensitivity is one reason she is so quickly charmed by new student Zachary Zimmerman, aka Z. This new attraction develops despite her devotion to life-long friend, neighbor, and soul mate, Andrew, who—Vic says—has become agoraphobic in the recent past. Vic is not the only one attracted to Z, whose bad-boy attitude and good looks charm most everyone at St. Ann’s. When Z initiates things with Vic, both his attention and questionable choices create trouble for her. Still, she is unable to resist. Their escalating romantic tension is set against an upcoming production of Macbeth, in which Vic and Z share leading roles. Further, and even more titillating, her tale of entanglement with the mysterious Z is told parallel to, by means of chapter prefaces, a murder investigation. Balog’s construction establishes immediate intrigue. The first chapter begins with a news bite announcing a homicide before switching gears and becoming a post-event narrative from Vic’s perspective. Although the reader can assume that the event might be, in fact, the murder, even that is not certain as Vic never mentions it specifically. Every subsequent chapter is prefaced similarly, including interview excerpts and tidbits of information regarding the murder. The reader is left to sort out who has been murdered, why, and by whom. Vic’s chapters are addressed to Andrew as a letter of explanation. It is unclear how Andrew, Vic, or Z are involved in the crime, but figuring out how they might be is the primary thrill of Balog’s novel. Patient readers will enjoy the simultaneous thrills of the murder, the Z intrigue, and Vic’s story. While some elements of the climax are a bit outlandish, the primary structure Balog has built holds firm, is delightfully surprising, and will send most readers back to re-gobble the first chapter. Put Unnatural Deeds in the hands of teens who enjoyed Flynn’s Gone Girl and Hawkins’s The Girl On The Train. Reviewer: Lauri J. Vaughan; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—The latest from YA novelist Balog, this fast contemporary title takes readers on a dark journey through mental illness and murder. Victoria narrates the story to her best friend and boyfriend Andrew, who is her agoraphobic, homeschooled neighbor of seven years. She wrestles with her guilt, though, after finding herself drawn to new student Z. Secrets and well-placed clues shape the suspenseful plot, which balances Vic's relatable questions about romance with true crime suspense surrounding a missing person. Police reports, interrogations, and newspaper articles about the crime begin each chapter and offer a refreshing change of writing style while foreshadowing the tale's climax. Vic's psychological struggle culminates in an unpredictable, shocking ending that most readers will not see coming. This thriller will stay with readers long after the last page. VERDICT A good choice for teens who are dealing with the loss of a friend. A strong purchase for YA thriller collections.—Seth Herchenbach, McHenry County College, Crystal Lake, IL
Kirkus Review
Aug. 30, 2016
Like a PG-13 version of Gone Girl (2012), Balog’s (Dead River, 2013, etc.) latest tells the tense and tragic story of three teens mixed up in a world of murder, obsession, and mental illness. Sixteen-year-old Victoria Zell, a loner suffering from severe anxiety, spends her days feeling trapped at St. Ann’s, a Catholic school in Bangor, Maine. Vic wants only to spend time with Andrew, her longtime boyfriend and best friend. Andrew understands her, and like Vic, Andrew suffers from his own debilitating condition: agoraphobia. The two are inseparable—until Zachary “Z” Zimmerman arrives at St. Ann’s. Z’s arrival spells trouble for Vic as she teeters between her loyalty to the safe and loving Andrew and her desire, bordering on obsession, for Z, who is full of mystery and danger. Vic sometimes reads as a naïve Catholic schoolgirl, a familiar stereotype, but her account, addressed to Andrew with each chapter preceded by police interviews, news updates, and coroner’s reports, is nevertheless a compelling one. The portrayal of mental illness seems authentic, but readers should recognize that Vic is entangled in a web of unhealthy relationships, especially with Z, who treats her like a puppy. Vic is white, with “stick-straight beige hair,” the charismatic Z has tan skin, golden hair, and blue eyes, and Andrew’s race is unclear. A page-turner that will keep readers riveted, this is a treat for mystery fans and will keep readers guessing right up until the end. (Thriller. 14-18)

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)
HL630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Cyn Balog graduated from Rutgers with a degree in shoelace tying or something. She’d wanted to major in writing, but certain “wise elders” in her life told her that career writers must learn to subsist on three saltines a day, and being part Italian, Cyn adamantly refused to give up pasta Sundays. Cyn now lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with her husband and daughters. She rarely listens to “wise elders” anymore, still eats pasta regularly and is currently looking for a way to get back her figure, possibly by taking up Zim Zam or freeze tag.

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Unnatural Deeds 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Sarah_UK1 8 months ago
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire and NetGalley.) “I thought I knew you inside and out, but… I was wrong.” This was a YA mystery story, told by one girl to her boyfriend. I liked Victoria as a character and I felt quite sorry for her that she had no friends at the school she had transferred to. I could also empathise with her anxiety issues, but the cheating thing was not a good character trait at all, and her obsession with Z just seemed destined to land her in trouble. The storyline in this was about a new boy starting at Victoria’s school – Z, who Victoria seemed to become totally obsessed with. Z flashed hot and cold – calling her ‘precious’ one minute and standing her up the next, and all the while Victoria seemed desperate for the attention, which was quite sad really. While this was going on though Victoria had a boyfriend, who she did end up cheating on, which wasn’t very good. I have to say that I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story though, and spent the whole book wondering who the heck ended up dead at the end! The ending to this was quite twisted, and a little confusing, but was a good end to the story none-the-less. 8 out of 10
CarolineA More than 1 year ago
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. Basic gist: Vic tells the story to her boyfriend, Andrew, all about how she cheated on him, falling for the new guy at school, Z. The ending is OUT THERE. If you don’t read books because of cheating, don’t count this one out for that reason. Seriously. What I loved: I loved the bits of interviews, newspaper articles, and so on that preceded each chapter. They were little clues to the end game that kept me invested in the story, needing to know what happened. I loved that, until almost the final chapter, I had no clue where this was going. I didn’t even know who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. I loved that it kept me guessing. What I didn’t care for: I wasn’t really invested in the day to day play-by-play that Vic was giving us. It bored me a little. I didn’t like the decisions she made, though I understand that’s part of her character, and I don’t knock stars for that. I just didn’t like some of the things she did. Actually, aside from her stupid decisions, I can kind of relate to Vic. She feels like an outsider, doesn’t really feel like she belongs and can’t connect to her peers. Gosh, that was me in high school! As I read books I tend to have a star rating in mind, this one jumped quickly from about a 2 up to a 3.5. This is the kind of book that seemed, to me, tedious as I read it. But when I read that ending? Wow. Blew me away. I actually didn’t quite understand what was happening until it was happening. Suddenly I was backpedaling, saying, WAIT! WHAT??? Yeah, it was good. So trippy. So, do I recommend this book? Yes. But go into this knowing that the pacing is slow and steady, the clues are there, but you’re unlikely to put it together until the very end. And you’ll probably keep thinking about the story afterward, I know I did! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TaraDGoodyear More than 1 year ago
Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog is full of twists and turns, making it one of the creepiest Young Adult fiction novels I have ever read. Ms. Balog weaves the main character's narrative towards a shocking ending you won't see coming, and it will make you want to go back and read it all over again. The teenage angst of love and obsession has never been so clear on the page as it is with Unnatural Deeds. Victoria Zell, or "Vic" as she's known to those close to her, knows what it's like to be the new kid in town - she was the new girl all last year at St. Anne's. However, this year things have changed, thanks to the arrival of the ever-charming Zachary Zimmerman, or "Z", and life in their quaint Maine town will never be the same. "Z" is a mystery everyone - including the teachers - at St. Anne's wants to solve. "Vic" is drawn to him too, which just gives her another reason to pop more Ativan. To complicate matters, "Vic" has been in a long-term relationship with the agoraphobic uber-talented boy next door, Andrew; and though she loves Andrew unabashedly, she cannot deny her attraction to "Z". From the first moment they meet, "Z" proves himself to be different from the rest of the St. Anne's student body by actually seeing "Vic" instead of ignoring her. At first, "Vic" can't believe "Z" wants to be her friend, and as they become closer she can't get enough of his attention. As her interest in "Z" grows, "Vic" tries desperately to hold onto her relationship with Andrew and the special bond they share. No one, especially "Vic", is prepared for how awful life can be when casual interest becomes a true obsession. This is storytelling at its finest, and Ms. Balog delivers a one-two gut punch at the end you will love, hate, and be left wanting more. By intermixing police interviews, MacBeth quotes, and news reports effectively, every page leads you down a darker path than the one before it. I've read Unnatural Deeds three times, and each time something new jumps out at me. This is the way Young Adult fiction should be: surprising, engrossing, and unafraid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are anything like me, you most likely read the free sample, or at least the synopsis of this book, and felt drawn in--wanting answers. Not only that, but the surprise ending that this book promised was begging you to click "add to cart". If you are anywhere along these lines, I feel it is my duty to potentially save you from reading this book. I have never reviewed a book before, but I feel that if I don't leave some sort of commentary on Unnatural Deeds, you will make the same mistake I did: buy the book with every intent that it will be full of suspense, romance, questions and answers. Although this book did inhibit these qualities, the obsessive, psychotic nature of the main character, Vic, and the constant over-glorifying of her love interest Z was a definite turn off. Not to mention how weak, naive and utterly irrational Vic's nature towards Z was. In fact, when I read the line, "He could've called me his little sack of dog poo, and I would've swooned," I found myself cringing and questioning for the millionth time why on earth I was still reading this book. Alas, the ONLY reason that I continued reading, and the ONLY reason why this book deserves two stars is because, yes, the ending was a shock. I also liked the idea of the interviews, it kept you on your toes. But despite the twist, or the embellishment that these interviews provided, this book felt so incomplete. When I turned the last page I was shocked, expecting there to be more. Was that REALLY the end? It left the reader feeling confused, needing more answers, because, if anything, the ending only brought up more questions. It's like a mirage, from far away, or even about five chapters in, this book seems like it would be worth the read, but as you stomach your way to the end, you realize there's just not much this story has to offer.
Aditi-ATWAMB More than 1 year ago
Murder, Mayhem, A Good Girl turned bad because of a charming, enigmatic boy? How COULD I say no? In a Few Words (and not a million?): Unnatural Deeds was a lot of things, just not all that it promised it would be. Victoria Zell is new at St. Ann’s School. She doesn’t talk to anyone, sits in the corner of her class and has an agoraphobic boyfriend/ neighbour who she’s been dating forever. Zachary Zimmerman, ‘Z’, is Victoria’s polar opposite. He’s popular, always the centre of attention and the more you talk to him, the less you know about him. So, it’s a huge surprise to invisible Victoria wants popular boy Z to want to be friends with her, and the last thing she ever expected when she starts falling for him. Slowly, and obsessively. While the storyline itself was quite unique, and the WHAT HAPPENED and WHO DID WHAT element was always present and encouraging you to read more, there were a lot of things just off about the book: 1. Victoria Zell: I understand that the point of this book was to make her a social outcast and completely gullible to Z’s charms, but this girl DID NOT TRY AT ALL – to make friends, or even acquaintances, to be a part of the town, the school – NOTHING. She didn’t even use her phone or have social media! It wouldn’t have bothered me at all – because there are different kinds of people, but when Z became friends with her SHE CARED ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS – her looks, what the popular girls thought of her – EVERYTHING. Like I said, off. 2. Zachary ‘Z’ Zimmerman: I’ve had my fair share of popular, enigmatic guys that are friends with EVERYBODY. I GET IT. I’ve had two best friends that would fit Z’s description in the social calendar, but I felt NOTHING with this boy. I didn’t see his charm, I didn’t see that SPECIAL SOMETHING that made him oh-so-shiny. He just looked good. Period. I didn’t like him and I didn’t trust him, and ALL THE SPARKLY GREATNESS that Victoria described about him just made it worse. 3. The Ending: While I knew to expect a big shocker of an ending, and IT REALLY WAS, like you COULD NOT SEE THAT COMING, it just WAS NOT EXPLAINED ENOUGH. After a big question mark of a book, and a twist, there was BARELY ANY EXPLANATION. I would have loved SOMETHING, thank you. Sigh. 4. The Interviews: There were a lot of interviews that were placed between the chapters with characters by the police supposed to give you extra, third hand information about what was going on without revealing anything, these were short, were of no help and I’ve just seen this done better like in Eileen Cook’s With Malice, and I didn’t like it very much. All in all, a book worth a one-time read if young adult mystery and obsession is what you’re into. I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters, but definite points to the story for not being predictable for the most part. 3 stars.
Myndia More than 1 year ago
Victoria is an anxious girl who doesn’t quite fit in at her new school, but at least she has her boyfriend Andrew, who lives next door and whose own issues keep him from attending school outside of his home. This is her second year at this new school and she’s used to being invisible, that is, until Z comes along and takes notice of her, turning her entire world upside down. She’s enthralled by him, as are most of the students in their class, and she finds herself lying to her family and her boyfriend, in order to spend time with him. But then things get out of hand, someone dies, and Victoria to has come to grips with reality. The format of the book is essentially Victoria telling her boyfriend Andrew everything that led up to the moment she is in right now. It’s an interesting approach that works pretty well, and in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. There is definitely a twist at the end that I hadn’t quite anticipated. Through the whole story, you don’t know who is dead, who has been hurt, or who the killer is. While I was necessarily shocked about who had died in the end, the reason behind the killing I hadn’t even begun to guess. And truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about it. In order to avoid spoilers, I can’t really say much, but I will say this: I think it is critical that mental illness be addressed through fiction, especially young adult fiction, because there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation out there, and whether we like it or not, more people read fiction than non-fiction. Fiction is a great way to introduce important topics. However, the topic of mental illness needs to be handled carefully, respectfully, and realistically. I can’t elaborate further without spoilers, but a rather huge leap was taken without a reasonable explanation, and I found it bothersome. Despite that, I enjoyed the book. The twist at the end, while perhaps a bit far-fetched, was definitely “whoa, I wasn’t expecting that!”, which is exactly what I’d expect from this kind of book. And even though we get answers at the end, I still have a lot of questions because there seems to be inconsistencies between Victoria’s experience of things and the recall of those who are interviewed later by the police. Sort of an interesting look into how individual perspectives influence how an event is interpreted. How does anyone ever know what is real or true when everyone sees everything so differently? Anyway… I’m not going to run around screaming from the rooftops about it, and I question the way mental illness was handled, but it was well-written, held my attention, and surprised me in the end. Overall, I really did enjoy it, and suspect others will, too. Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I pride myself on giving a fair and honest review.
ReadingGrrl More than 1 year ago
Wow what a disturbing story of obsession and mental illness. There isn't much I can say about this book without giving away parts that I don't want to give away. This is a well written book with mysterious characters and a disturbing ending. You may think you know whats going on but I was pretty shocked by the ending. I really enjoyed this book, I knew there was more to it than meets the eye but I couldn't put my finger on it. The story is told by Vic but alternating chapters are interviews from the police over something that has happened. I was hooked from the beginning breezing through to find out what happens in the end.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this, I wasn't sure where it was going. I definitely wasn't sure who was lying in the ditch talking about feeling their bodily functions shutting down. It was enough to keep me reading though. And I am glad I kept reading. This is most certainly a YA book, however, I as an adult had no problem reading it. There was some teenage angst, but it was nowhere near enough to have me heading for the hills. I definitely felt sorry for the new girl, Victoria, that is, until the new boy, Z, came riding into school. He took her out of her shell and then everyone wanted to be her friend. The ending is way out there and very, very creepy. I was thoroughly entertained and, as I said, would be a great book for YA and adults, as well. Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
onemused More than 1 year ago
"Unnatural Deeds" is a haunting, enthralling, dark masterpiece. It is told from the point-of-view of Victoria, a teen with an anxiety disorder, who has been invisible at her new school for a while. Her long-time boyfriend and best friend, Andrew, is homeschooled and agoraphobic. Victoria is replaced by the newer student, who goes by "Z," and befriends her, encouraging her to step out of her shell and make new friends, also romancing her. The book is told through interspersed police investigations and primarily with the first person as Victoria relates all the events around Z and their relationship to Andrew. At the beginning, I found this a little awkward, but it quickly grew on me and I really enjoyed the style- it swept me up in the story, almost like I was a part of it. I really liked Vic, she seems like your typical shy, anxious teenager. Her POV was amazing. The romance between her and Z and her and Andrew felt very real/normal teenage angst but exacerbated by her anxiety. There is a huge twist at the end- I had guessed at maybe parts of it, but not at the whole thing. Looking back, you can definitely find hints of it all, which makes it pretty chilling. It was masterfully done and took me completely by surprise. I am still in awe of this work- so dark and so thought-provoking. It's an incredible read; I am sure I will be thinking about it for a long time to come. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for my honest review.