Freedom comes at a cost...
Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet-graceful, demure...and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman's gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one's safe, least of all the other pets. But she's trapped, unable to get back to Penn-the boy she loves-or help the girls who need her.
Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she's lucky, she'll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives of everyone she's tried to save...
The Perfected series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Perfected
Book #2 Tarnished
Book #3 Unraveled
About the Author
Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann's Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. To learn more visit www.katejarvikbirch.com
Read an Excerpt
By Kate Jarvik Birch, Heather Howland, Victoria Andreas
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Kate Jarvik Birch
All rights reserved.
This wasn't freedom. This room, with its dingy walls and small, square window, was just another cell. Another cage. Only this time Penn wasn't here to love me. Or to help me get away.
This time, I'd have to escape on my own.
I cracked the door and peered down the hallway toward the desk at the end of the corridor. I hadn't even taken a step yet and already my heart thundered against my chest like it, too, longed to escape. There was still one more item I needed to find before I could leave this place.
There were nine other girls — pets — in the refugee center, and I knew they were in the common room watching television the way they did every night. I waited until the main light down the hall switched off, signaling all but one of the workers had checked out for the night. Only the small glow from the lamp that sat on the desk in the reception area lit the room, casting the hall in shadow.
The people who ran this place were nice enough, with their order and their routine. They probably thought it was kind of them to make one of their personnel available at all times, just a few steps down the hallway if we got scared or had a question. But to me, it felt like they'd positioned a prison guard to watch over me.
I closed the door behind me. All I needed to do was stroll past the reception desk the way I'd practiced for the past six days. To the woman sitting there, I would look like all the other girls: small, unsure, lost in this big world. She would only see the things I chose to show her.
Not that there was much left of me to show.
When my world split in two, after the U.S. police dragged Penn in one direction, while the Canadian officers pulled me in another, a part of me felt like I stayed tethered somewhere across the border, waiting for Penn to come walking across that bridge, no handcuffs weighing down his wrists, no bright red gash across his forehead. Just him, whole and well and complete. But with that half of me gone, I couldn't think straight anymore. There was only space for one thing: getting back to Penn.
I crept forward. On my left, the door to the common room was open. The other girls sat side by side on the small couches. The television's blue light flickered across their faces. It had been almost a week, but I still couldn't remember their names. There was no room in my mind for formalities.
"Good evening, Ella," the woman at the reception desk said, setting down her magazine as I approached. "Everyone else is watching the season finale of Pro Chef in the common room. Don't you want to join them?"
"I'm planning on it." I smiled, praying she couldn't see the way my pulse pounded in my neck. "But I was hoping I could convince you to make us some popcorn again. I've been craving it since you served it the other day."
She grinned and clasped her hands together. All you had to do to make one of the workers happy was to ask about food. It was the easiest way to distract them. They were excited by any sign that we were starting to fit in, but nothing thrilled them more than showing interest in their favorite foods.
"Let me see if we have any." She pushed back her chair and practically bounced toward the small kitchen down the hall.
Her excitement stabbed me with guilt. I'd already taken three things, but it wasn't getting any easier. The staff here had shown me nothing but compassion. In return, I'd stolen from them.
You need to find Penn. You need to make sure he's safe. The mantra I'd repeated to myself for the past week washed away my doubt.
I could still see Penn and the fear in his dark eyes as they pulled him away from me. I always saw the same thing, whether my eyes were opened or closed, whether I was alone or someone was speaking directly to me. I couldn't not see his face, the worry, the fear, the sadness. Sometimes I wanted to rub my fists into my eyes to make it go away.
But in this moment, I clung to it.
I held still, waiting for the woman to round the corner before I stepped behind the desk. On the top shelf was a row of books. They weren't the kind Penn's little sister, Ruby, had on her bookshelf, ones filled with stories of cursed kings and clever heroes. Most of these were marked along the spine with a common word. My reading skills were still almost nonexistent, but I remembered the letters that Ruby had taught me. I could still feel the sound of them inside my mouth as if they'd left a residue there, and I knew that if I stared at these words long enough they would start to turn into something, even if that thing was only the leftover taste of hope.
It had taken me a day or so to figure out what it spelled. At night I traced the letters on my palm, trying to sound it out. C-A-N-A-D-A. Canada, my newest cage, but if I was lucky, it might also spell my passage back.
I plucked the smallest book off the shelf and quickly flipped through it. Yes, some of the pages were packed dense with words, but the first few were covered with the thin, colored lines of a map. They weren't the same as the one Penn had looked at when we drove from Connecticut to the border, but they had to be similar.
Down the hall, a door slammed. I quickly slipped the little book into the back pocket of my jeans, pulling my T-shirt down over the top of it, and hurried toward the common room.
It wasn't the television show that I noticed when I walked in — it was the girls. The blue light still flickered across their faces but instead of sitting side by side on the couch with a dazed expression, they now kneeled in front of the television, so close that they could reach their fingers out and touch it. None of them turned to face me when I walked in.
I stared at the screen, trying to figure out what could possibly hold their attention this way. The camera showed a crowd of reporters standing in front of a small stage. Atop it, a podium was filled with microphones.
"What are you —" I began to say, but then the camera panned over to the side of the stage where the crowd was parting and through the sea of people, Congressman John Kimble stepped forward, looking as confident and impressive as I'd ever seen him.
A cold jolt shot through my body and instinctually my hand flew to my pocket. In it, the collar the congressman had given to me burned like a lit beacon. The delicate gold pendant was the only material remnant left over from my life at his house. A reminder of where I'd been and why I'd left.
I stepped away from the television, but before I turned, something caught my eye and the terrible sickness in my stomach lifted, replaced with the electric rush of adrenaline. Standing just behind the congressman's left shoulder, in a crisp navy suit, was the congressman's son.
My heart leaped and I stumbled forward. I needed to be closer to him. It didn't matter that it was only an image on the screen. Reality smudged around the edges, leaving only the two of us. I closed my eyes and I was next to him, lying on the cool, mossy flagstones inside our garden. His fingers traced the shape of my arm as a breeze stirred the top of the pond, sending a ripple across the surface. I rolled against him, feeling the heat of his skin soak into mine ...
The television screeched, startling me. I blinked at the screen, at the sight of the sound crew adjusting the microphones. Once they finished, the congressman took his place behind the podium. Penn, stony faced, stayed glued to his side.
"Thank you for coming out," the congressman said, addressing the crowd of reporters in front of him. "This has been a difficult week for our family."
Our family. My owners.
He sighed and glanced to the side of the stage where the rest of his family stood. My attention had been so consumed with Penn that I hadn't even noticed the congressman's wife, Elise, or his daughter, Ruby. My heart swelled, seeing her sweet little face surrounded by crazy brown curls that her mother had obviously tried to tame. But the sadness in her big brown eyes couldn't be tamped down the way her hair could. I swallowed back a lump in my throat, knowing how much she must be missing me.
"As I'm sure you've heard, our family has had someone very dear taken from us. Our Ella was a part of our family, and having her stolen has left a big hole in our hearts."
The sound of my name on his lips made my legs weak and I took a small step away from the TV. Lowered myself back down onto one of the sofas.
His cold, dark eyes pierced through the television screen. Was he talking to me? None of it made sense. The congressman knew that Penn and I had run away together, yet there they were standing shoulder to shoulder, as if they were one big happy family.
"It's no secret that I've been a strong backer of Bill 467 since its inception," the congressman went on, "and in doing so, I've put myself, and my family, under attack from a diverse group of extremists. They call themselves the Liberationists, an insulting knockoff of our great country's tragic history, but they're nothing but zealots. They have no regard for the law. No regard for life. This is a frighteningly dangerous group that hides behind vitriol and false rhetoric. They're nothing short of homegrown terrorists, and I compel anyone listening to be on the lookout. If you suspect that someone close to you might be involved in one of these organizations, I urge you to reach out to the authorities."
"What does he mean by 'terrorists'?" one of the girls asked. "They're trying to save us, not hurt us."
Behind the congressman, Penn stood, eyes glazed. He gave no impression that he was even hearing what his father was saying.
I glanced between the girls' faces. Did they understand? Did they know that it had been Penn who had helped me escape? Did anyone know, or had I dreamed it all?
As if he'd read my mind, the congressman turned to Penn, placing his hand on his shoulder. "Our family isn't exempt from blame," he said. "My son's actions played a part in the loss of our dear Ella, and he's here with me today to ask for your help in returning her to us."
The congressman moved aside as Penn stepped up to the podium. For a moment he simply stared down at the microphones, unblinking. The camera zoomed in on his face. From the outside he looked like a perfect example of a congressman's son. His tousled dark hair had been tamed, and his clothes had been pressed. But even though someone had obviously styled him to look this way, something about him looked ... wrong.
There were dark circles underneath his amber eyes that someone had tried to mask with makeup, and even though his hair had been combed down to cover the cut above his eyebrow, the skin beside his eye was still tinged with the sunset hues of an old bruise.
I wanted to reach out and stroke the hair back from his forehead, to press my lips to his injuries as if my kiss could heal him, could make him whole.
Finally, Penn gave his head a small shake and looked down at the notecards that he'd been clutching. He spread them out on the podium. "Thank you all for coming here today," he said. "My family hopes that by speaking out we might not only help inform some of you about the misconceptions of Bill 467, but also find a way to bring home our pet."
He sounded different. Flat. His voice normally sounded like laughter was about to push its way out at any moment. But it only sounded tired as he began detailing the ways that people had been misinterpreting the law.
"Even though these pets seem human in every way, they were scientifically engineered to be companions," he read from the cards.
I cringed at his words. Seem human. What was that supposed to mean? I was a human. Penn, of all people, knew that.
My hands quivered in my lap, thinking of the way his fingers had felt interlocked with my own. No one could tell me we were that different.
"It's easy to forget that they're pets," he went on. "I know it was for me. They look like us and they've been trained to interact with us. Those of you who've had a chance to meet one know that they're capable of intelligent conversation, but the same is true for robots or chimpanzees for that matter."
We all cringed and one of the girls sucked in a shuddering breath, covering her eyes with her hands.
"I don't know if I can watch any more of this," one said, reaching to turn off the TV.
"No, stop." I scooted forward, pushing her hand away. I didn't want to hear another hateful word from Penn's mouth, but somehow it seemed even worse not to hear it.
"He's not ..." She looked from the TV to me, the realization that I was the one they were talking about spreading across her face.
"This isn't like him," I said. "Those cards ... Someone told him to say this!"
"I had a chance to talk to the scientists at NuPet," Penn continued. "They told me that, because of the extensive genetic modification they undergo, pets can't be classified as humans. They use test tube insemination and incubation. They're raised in kennels and training centers, not loving homes. They've taken away the human element, not just from their genes, but from the process. They're ... bred. Grown. And pets grown in labs aren't capable of being fully human." He lowered the cards. "NuPet has made all the data publically available. You can see for yourself."
My eyes stung and I shook my head, trying to tune him out. These couldn't be Penn's words. They couldn't.
"... help us bring home our pet, Ella."
My ears perked at my name. Penn's voice changed ever so slightly. I'm sure no one else noticed it, but I did. I did. The dullness that had weighed down his speech slipped away, if only just for a moment. I stared at the screen, willing him to say my name again. To say anything that sounded like himself.
"My family won't rest until she's returned to us and that's why we'd like to announce a hundred thousand dollar reward for her safe return."
The girls stared disgustedly at the screen, even though any one of their owners would probably pay exorbitant sums to have them returned. They just hadn't announced it on television.
Penn's hands shook and the notecards he held fell to the ground. He lifted his eyes, staring into the camera for the first time.
"My father will do anything to get her back. He'll find her and he'll bring her home," he said. "I promise."
The intensity in Penn's eyes pushed me back in my seat and before I knew it, the woman from the desk was beside the television, switching off the screen. The happy look on her face was gone.
Her jaw clenched. "It's going to have to be a 'no' on the popcorn. Television isn't a good idea, either," she said. "Please return to your rooms for the evening."
The girls nodded, obedient as always, and headed for the hallway. I didn't take my eyes off of the black TV screen. In it, my own reflection stared back at me, but I would never forget the look in Penn's eyes. The other girls might not have seen it. The world might not have seen it. But I did. And I knew it was meant for me.
"Are you okay?" the woman from the counter asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.
I pushed back the urge to brush her hand away. "I'm fine."
"Do you want me to call your counselor? I'm sure she'll come in. That's what they're for, to help you through tough times like this." She sounded like the video they'd shown me at orientation.
"No. I'll be fine. I think I just need to lie down for a minute."
I stood. The small rectangle of my stolen book still burned in my pocket. I didn't need sympathy. I didn't need to talk to one of their counselors. I didn't need a life skills class or a lecture on self-sufficiency. I just needed to get out of there.
Get the book. Get back to my room while everyone was busy watching TV. Gather up the handful of items I'd stolen to get me back to Penn, and leave. That had been the plan. Not this.
In my room, I shut the door and latched it. It was only a small privacy lock. It wouldn't keep someone out for long if they really wanted to get in.
I slipped the case off of my pillow and shoved the book inside. Then, lifting the corner of the mattress, I fished out the other items I'd collected. A thin, black wallet was the first thing I'd taken. I slipped it, far too easily, out of the back pocket of the man who had come in to speak to us about becoming Canadian citizens.
I opened it, the way I'd done every night since I'd taken it. I knew all its contents by heart: the bent picture of two small boys, the worn business cards, twenty-seven dollars in bills, a few laminated cards with the man's sad, unsmiling face staring back at me. I plucked out the cash, shoving it into the front pocket of my jeans. Everything else, I left inside.
Excerpted from Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch, Heather Howland, Victoria Andreas. Copyright © 2015 Kate Jarvik Birch. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm still not over that I felt empty, in a good way, at the end of Tarnished. I mean, it couldn't end like that! Tell me there's a third book. Please. First of all, Tarnished, with its character development and pacing, it is no doubt, much better than Perfected. I was mostly reading with my mouth gaping and furrowed brows with all the things that were happening - the pets turning up dead, the black market and others. To my surprise, it was good to see how Ella grew as the story further progressed. If she wants to do something, she goes for it even though it's stupid and dangerous. Although I admit that I was glad that there is a development to Ella's character, I was relieved that another "pet" was with her reckless adventures that I was so sure that she would've got caught easily it if it wasn't for that "pet". Even I would get caught. Heck, I wouldn't even want to cross that border again. Ella's accomplice is my favorite character in Tarnished so far! She's realistic, strong and knows more about the world she's living in. There's much more to discover to her character and I desperately want to know it all! Who knew she would be my favorite character right now when I was crazy (I still am! Just slightly crazy.) about Penn! As I have read the first book, I know fans would love Tarnished! Perfected ended with a lot of questions hanging and most of those has been answered in Tarnished! It is a great installment for the Perfected series.
"Tarnished" continues the Perfected series with an installment that begins right after the previous book left off. Ella is in Canada and free/her own person. However, all she can think about is getting back to Penn. Enough so that she leaves freedom and heads back to the US, where the Congressman is hunting for her and putting up a large reward to get her back. However, as her naivete and helplessness proves, she must have the help of Missy to get back across the border and into the US. To be able to get back to Penn in Connecticut, she travels with Missy through the Black Market- where pets go when their masters have tired of them. They do "jobs," which basically exactly what you'd think it is. Missy does double the work to ensure that Ella doesn't have to do any, and Ella is completely naive about what is going on- and it really shows. Eventually, she finds out what's going on, but until then, she seems perfectly OK with the Black Markets, like jobs are no big deal. There's a bigger problem in the US, where pets are brutally murdered and disfigured, left around town as some kind of symbol or warning. To find out what's going on, Ella and Missy must go back to the kennels to try to get evidence. While the plot moves fast and the writing flows very well, I found Ella even harder to like in this book. She does not value her freedom or that of those around her (e.g. Missy). She reads like a young child making errors which could have huge consequences and only Missy will sacrifice herself to help protect and save Ella (but why?). If it weren't for Missy, Ella would have gotten nowhere. Missy is the true strength of the book, even though Ella is painted as the brave one (with the drawing symbolism, etc.). I wish Ella had been more capable on her own. I will say that she does grow/improve as the book goes on. I also think there's a pretty big cost problem in terms of how much it costs to grow/raise the pets and how much they charge for them. It just doesn't add up, but that's a really minor point. I am also pretty unhappy with Ella/Penn as a couple- in the first book, it was insta-love, likely brought about by the power differential. Here, it seems like an obsession and carries on too much. It feels very wrong to me, mostly because she was owned by him/his family, he carries the message of his father on TV/does not really fight it that much, and it really feels more like Stockholm Syndrome. Missy also had a crazy, not well-explained change of heart (Ok, I get that she was afraid, but why Ella?)- I guess we needed something to help Ella move forward, and although I like Missy's character in this book, I don't really understand why she's constantly sacrificing herself for Ella, who seems to mostly be a product of her upbringing. Another question I had is why they can read numbers/do math, when it was clear in the first book that they are not taught anything of substance (including reading), but this is another minor point. I won't say what happens later to avoid spoilers, but it all felt way too easy/quick. Although I liked the pace and found myself reading this book very quickly, I had some issues with the plot and characters (particularly Ella and Penn) that kept me from really liking it overall. Please note that I received an e-copy from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Tarnished is the second book in the Perfected series. It's a continuous story and cannot be read as a standalone. Ella has escaped to Canada and no longer someone's Pet. She lives in a camp with other ex-pet girls. The life isn't glamorous but her life is her own. It leaves her wanting to get back to Penn. She plans to escape but then she sees him on the television. Everything is wrong. The words he speaks, his tone and the way he is acting. Ella wants to save him but it won't be that easy. She escapes her refuge and bumps into an old friend. Missy is world-wise and wants to protect Ella. She doesn't give Ella the full picture to this dystopian world. As this story unravels Ella gains the determination she needs. This isn't just about her this is about all the Pets. This is the journey middle book. I enjoyed the storyline and the world gets crazier. I'm enjoying this series. 4.5 stars out of 5. Darker than the first and it can only get worse. I received an arc in exchange for an honest review.
The Good This one is even better than the first. What drew me to Perfected was the outrageousness of owning a human as a pet. In this second installment, things get so much worse than simply owning a human being (and that was bad enough?!?!). This is one of those series that make me think the entire time I'm reading it. I can't help but go over in my head and digest the information of what is considered acceptable by people in this future world. It's all written to be believable based on the justifications given by corrupt politicians, but I can't help shaking my head at what's going on and I desperately want these politicians and NuPet dealt with. Ella has moved so far in her character from where she was in the beginning of the first one. She is a sweet soul with a desire to help others. She's also willing to stand up and get things done. Missy in this one was a jewel. I remember not really caring for her in the first one, but her character was fantastic this go round. The action is really revved up in Tarnished. It's not the action that had me turning pages and trying to get to the end though, it was more that I HAD to know what would happen. It's not an action-packed thrill ride, more of a psychological derby. The writing flows well and there were some truly beautiful quotes embedded in the story. "Morning was just an idea that night was considering, a blush-colored dream." The Bad The only small thing that bothered me was how badly she wanted to 'escape' in the beginning when I wasn't able to tell that the situation was that bad. In fact, she just goes to much worse. I wish I would've been able to see why this place in Canada that she's staying in the beginning is so terrible that she has to get out immediately. Surely it can't be just because she has to see Penn. This didn't detract anything from the story, just had me scratching my head a bit. There are circumstances of prostitution and murder so you may want to read it before determining whether your kids can. The Romance Penn was a big deal in the first one. In fact, he went from hating Ella to showing her how to be free. In this one, they have a very cute relationship and definitely are committed to each other. It's all gumdrops and rainbows in that department. Conclusion Tarnished is a very well-written follow up and was even better than Perfected. The series is intoxicating in the way that it stimulates your mind and really makes you think. I love the characters and am so glad to continue to see them grow. The action went up a notch and the storyline got even more intense. I'm a fan! *Sent for honest review
This review of “Tarnished” is going to be short, because when I requested it I neglected to notice that it was the second book in a series. I’ll review it based on the plot and writing, but as a reader you should begin with the first book (Perfected) to save yourself the same confusion I brought upon myself. The premise is disturbing while also being compelling. As soon as I saw that it included the concept of humans being kept as pets, I knew it would be a good dystopian plot. I am excited to read the first book to see what it was like getting to the beginning of the second book of the series. The characters were sympathetic and likable, and the writing flowed well. While I was confused over some details, I still feel confident recommending this series to older young adults and up. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I could not put this book down! I finished it in one day! The suspense from the first book continues to rise and rise!
Tarnished is sequel to Perfected. The story starts a week later after Perfected ended. Ella is stuck in a Canadian safe house, a refugee center. Penn isn’t with her, so this story starts with Ella wanting to get back to Penn, who is with his father. There is a bit of a twist when she runs into someone and Ella is exposed to the black market and the life of a pet allowed to be bought, I loved that we get to see her taking some risks, also that we find more about the kennels and enjoyed the part where they try to get the information with the girls. All she wants is to rescue and be reunited with Penn and expose the breeding program. If you haven’t read this series, let me tell you these books are a very different kind of dystopian story from the ones you usually read, like my review for the first book, this book is also very well written, I love technology so this is what made me read it in the first place. I can’t wait for next book either.
Brilliant! INITIAL THOUGHTS After reading and thoroughly enjoying Perfected I was really looking forward to reading Tarnished. the only slight worry I had was that sometime the second book in a series doesn't quite live up to the first! MY REVIEW So as I said at the very beginning of the post about the covers for this book series so far you already know I love the covers! The dress featured on the cover is Tarnish is definitely a statement dress and certainly catches your eye! The dress and it's colours had a lot of meanings within the book. I mean its a beautiful dress belonging to a pet, but it is also bright red! and whoever wears it is going to really stand out and draw attention to themselves. . . will they receive the type of interest they really want or maybe receive the wrong kind of attention. The dress kind of explodes on this cover and that is a great way to describe the whole subject of pets in this book. There is also a fantastic byline on this book cover "Freedom comes at a cost. . . " and we learn through Ella's story what price she has to pay for her freedom, a life without Penn? We also see Ella discovering the prive Missy is willing to pay to help her too. So, my usual question, would the cover make me stop and encourage me to pick it up from the book store shelf? Definitely yes! At the end of Perfected we saw Ella finally escape being a pet, so part of her dream of freedom coming true. However Ella and Penn were separated on the border, her pulled to freedom on the Canadian side and Penn held back ny the police on the USA side. So though Ella has her freedom she is not spending it with the love of her life Penn. Tarnished quite literally picks up Ella's story a few days after the ending of Perfected. Ella is living or more like existing in a refugee centre with other pets. To Ella she seems as if she has exchanged on set of enclosing walls for a different set of enclosing walls. Ella is plotting to break out and escape the refugee centre, her dream slightly altered, she wants to return to the USA and be reunited with Penn, then flee to someplace new for them both where they are unknown people to start a life together with each other. Ella does not trust any of the other girls in the refugee centre, she is planning on going it alone with her plans. Ella tricks a centre worker into leaving her alone, though she hates doing so as she knows they are trying to help her reajust to life etc long enough for her to acquire items she feels will be useful to her escape plan. Ella repeats a mantra to herself over and over again to give herself strength to do what must be done "You need to find Penn. You need to make sure he is safe". Ella is drawn to the TV room when she sees the girls transfixed by what they are watching on the screen. It is Congressman Kimble, her owner, the one who gave her a collar as a gift. The collar/pendant is the only materialistic possession she has. Ella see's the other members of the Kimble family. Elise the Congressman's wife and their daughter Ruby, and Penn is standing near his father. John Kimble is saying their Pet, Ella has been stolen and how sad they all are she is no longer with them. They are appealing for her to be returned to the family and even offering a reward! John forces Penn to speak, to appeal for peace and the return of Ella. Ella can see Penn is not himself, he is not the loving Penn she knows and loves dearly. He is being forced or coerced into speaking, the bruise on his face
3.5/5 stars After that monster cliffhanger at the end of Perfected, I was hoping Birch would write another book in the series. Naturally, when I saw Tarnished appear for review, I jumped at the chance to return to the seriously disturbing world where human girls are kept as pets. My heart ached for Ella, as she has been separated from the boy she loves and is now on her own. While Ella is pretty obsessed with being reunited with Penn, her eyes are opened to the true horrors of NuPet and what they are doing, as well as how the black market operates. While finding Penn is still the most important thing to her, she can't pull the wool over her eyes and pretend none of this other stuff isn't happening. I commend her for taking a stand and fighting for what's right, even as naïve as she is. One character from the first book makes a surprising appearance and I have to say I did not expect them at all, considering what happened previously. The friendship that develops between them really worked though and I was glad for it. I loved Penn just as much as I did in the first one and I'm glad he also dared to be defiant and make the decisions he did. He respects Ella and the fact that she is going to make her own decisions from here on out. They are a team and I enjoyed seeing them in that capacity. We do get quite a bit of action and adventure in this book, as well as some suspense. I thought it would be a dualogy, but Birch definitely left the ending open for another book, as well as raised some pretty important questions. Ella's story is definitely not resolved, so I am hoping we will see another book in this series!
Although I have not read the first book in the Perfected series, I could pick this one up and not be lost. Took me a few minutes to get acquainted with where we were in the story and why we were there, but Kate Jarvik Birch does a very good job of catching you up quickly. I have to say that this story was very interesting in itself. I tried to put myself in the story several times and each time I was so glad that I was not Ella. I would hate to be in her position and trying to help save others as well as trying to get herself out of scary situations. I thought that Ella became a very mature person throughout the story and she learned a lot of lessons along the way. Ella was pretty much a person that kept to herself and was considered to do no wrong and by the end of the story she was doing everything she could, whether getting herself in trouble or not, to help save her friends just to be able to prove what all was going on. This story was action packed and kept your attention. I can't wait to see what is in store for us as readers in the next book!
Tarnished is the second book in the Perfected series by Kate Jarvik Birch and I have to say, I think I enjoyed this one a bit more than the first book. Where book one established the back story and the basis for the situations Ella faces in this book, this one felt a bit different. Tarnished has quite a bit of action, some swoony bits, and progress within the story. I loved that we got to learn a bit more about the kennels and the rebel group. Ella has definitely changed since she moved in with the Congressman and his family. This book kicks off with her in Canada at a safe house since she successfully made it over the border but it isn’t like she expected…mostly because Penn isn’t with her. Because of that, she decides she needs to go back to him so they can get away together. When she sees Penn at a press conference with his father, she immediately puts her plan into action. What she didn’t count on was running into someone from her past. She also didn’t count on that person to help her get back to Penn. As Ella makes her way back to Penn, she gets exposure to the black market and the seedy side of life as a pet. She definitely takes some risks here and I appreciated how she didn’t shy away from them. In addition to that, she began to stand up for herself and I think that pushed people to look at her differently. The relationship between Ella and Penn is interesting. Having read book one a while ago I needed to go back to understand how it developed. While I liked both of these characters, I wasn’t sure why either would be willing to risk so much for each other. It could be just the time that elapsed from when I first read about their budding relationship but I needed a reminder as to why they would be open to risking everything just to be with each other. We definitely find out more about everything with this installment. I loved the part where the girls were infiltrating the kennels to obtain more information. They definitely faced their worst nightmare and were rewarded with quite the haul of information which not only helped them expose what is really going on, but it created additional risks and concerns for Ella. If you are looking for a new dystopian that has plenty of action and a great story, definitely consider this book. I admit, the idea of pets that look and act human intrigued me and as I learned more in this book about what was really happening, I was even more interested. I don’t know what that says about me but I do know that tells me Birch wrote a good book.
Five stars are not enough for TARNISHED. TARNISHED is simply outstanding! This had to be said right away. I’m not sure whether someone who hasn’t read the first book of this series, Perfected, will be able to easily follow, because TARNISHED continues exactly where PERFECTED left off. However, TARNISHED is so good, I believe that readers should make an effort to read TARNISHED, or better yet read PERFECTED before. To cut a long story short: the “pets”, are genetically engineered girls, whose life is dedicated to making their owners’ life more pleasant; they’re much like slaves. Ella had been bought by Congressman John Kimball, but eventually Ella and Penn, the Congressman’s son, fell in love. Things became intolerable for Ella and she escaped to Canada, where it’s illegal to own “pets”. But Ella has vowed to try and reunite with Penn, one way or another... Ella has escaped and wishes to find Penn, the boy she loves, but she then learns that “pets” are being killed. She wants to find out why and who is murdering them, then is looking for a way to bring justice to the poor innocent, dead girls. What she didn’t expect to find is a very unlikely ally: her acquaintance: Missy… I had loved the first book, and I was hoping TARNISHED would be as good, but it’s much, much, much better! TARNISHED is absolutely fantastic! Exciting, filled with action, and very fast-paced; I am overjoyed! So much happens, there are amazing plot twists, and character development is remarkable. Ms. Jarvik Birch’s prose is absolutely seamless, flowing; the writing is simple but gorgeous and very eloquent. The characters’ dialogues are impeccable: they fit their personalities and their social statuses, and the teenagers sound like they should. TARNISHED is a resounding proof of why Young Adult books can be so successful: the storytelling is captivating, the plot is air-tight, the characters are very relatable. Ella, Missy, and Penn are all different from each other, and I love them all. Missy was a wonderful surprise! I wish I could have read TARNISHED in one sitting; life kept getting in the way of my reading and I just didn’t want to stop. And the cover is genius: it is what the book is all about; you’ll see when you read it. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.