Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.
If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.
Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.
She doesn’t plan on making friends.
She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.
"Holy jawdropping creepy bots! Hot, funny, and terrifying... if The Running Man and The Hunger Games had a baby on steroids: this would be it. You will be glued to each amazingly horrifying page from beginning to end." — Molly McAdams, New York Times bestselling author
“THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!! I couldn’t put it down! Suspenseful, romantic and thought provoking, The Wicked We Have Done had me rooting for criminals while pondering morality and questioning humanity. I can’t wait for the sequel.” — Jamie Blair, author of Leap of Faith
“A heart-pounding thrill ride! The Wicked We Have Done will make you gasp, smile and cry – an emotional rollercoaster in book form. I absolutely loved it!” — Susanne Winnacker, author of Imposter
Sarah Harian received her M.F.A. from Fresno State University. She currently lives in the Sierra Nevadas with her husband and their dog and swears she’ll never live anywhere other than the forested mountains—they’re too inspiring. This is her first novel.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Four minutes before the beginning of my sentence, Mom breaks down.
I thought it’d be easier; she’s had so long to prepare herself. My punishment was decided at the same time as my incarceration—six months ago—and I’d only seen her sporadically through a filthy glass window. But now she sobs into one bony hand while holding Todd’s wrist tightly with the other. With enough squirming, he’s able to break loose and run to me.
I squat down to Todd’s height. He eyes my polyester hoodie. Reaching out with pudgy fingers, he pinches the zipper.
He’s only five. I remember some things from that age—moving into a house, going to my first harvest carnival—but not everything. I wonder how he’ll remember me.
“Promise you won’t forget about me, ’kay, sport?”
Awareness floods him. “Where you going, Evie?”
“Just to take some tests. They need to keep me for a while, though.” I run my fingers through his dark, fine hair.
“Can I come?”
The corner of my mouth twitches up. “Nah, it’s like being in time-out for a month.”
His eyes widen.
“They even take away your snack time.”
“They’re going to take away your snack time?”
“But when you get back, we can have snack time together.”
“All the chocolate ice cream in the world.” I force a mechanical smile. “I love you.”
He leans in and plants a sticky kiss on my cheek. “Me more.”
I inhale. Baby shampoo. For a second I’m transported to my home with Mom and Todd, before the trial, before college. Beige carpets and sun-baked windows, pencil sketches, lead-stained fingers. When I can’t handle torturing myself any longer, I stand.
The departure room is bleak and stifling—charcoal walls and flickering lights—hardly bigger than my cell. You’d think they’d give me a few hours with the sun before sending me away.
But terrorists don’t deserve beautiful things.
The bad lighting does nothing to mask Mom’s paleness. She looks so much older than she did a year ago—the wrinkles in her face deeper, her short dark hair streaked with gray. She nods, and I do the bravest thing I’ve done in a while. I step forward and wrap my arms around her petite shoulders.
Her breath hitches. She shudders a sob as she squeezes me.
“Don’t,” I say. “I’ll be back in a month. A month and they’ll let me go.”
I will pretend for her that I’m going to make it out of the world’s most technologically precise death penalty. That I’m going to make it out of the Compass Room.
The door squeaks open behind me. Mom’s eyes widen, the shake of her head a violent shiver. “I’m not ready.”
“We’re on a schedule, Ma’am.”
“I always believed you.” Mom clings to me, desperate. “Remember that.”
I place my hands behind my back obediently, cold cuffs locking them into place. “I love you.” Each word drowns in her cries.
The guards pry me away, and the door to the departure room clangs shut right on top of Todd’s strangled holler of my name. The floor’s metal grate rattles beneath my feet as prison guards rush back and forth between departure rooms and cells.
Despite the words I fed my mother, I know I saw my family for the very last time.
My throat tightens, but there is no time to reflect. I had months to imagine this moment, months to mourn. That time is over, because today is the beginning of my inevitable execution in the Compass Room.
The guards march me to the next door over. One opens it and the other throws me inside, dragging me to a thin cot. Medical devices decorate the rack on the wall, and a woman in a lab coat sits next to me on a rolling chair. She reads a tablet in her hands.
“Evalyn.” Harsh florescent lights illuminate her vapid smile. My guards hover close to us as she types up something on her tablet.
“Just a few quick tests.” She picks a blood pressure monitor from the rack, plugging one end into her tablet. “Your arm, please.”
She documents the rest of my vitals as she plugs in every new device. “Any problems with the contraception shot?”
I’ve been given the shots regularly since my sentence was decided. Compass Room regulations. I’ll be mingling with the male inmates during my stay, and the last thing anyone wants is for us to be breeding.
I didn’t have a say in the matter either. Had to take the shot to get into the Compass Room. And it’s either the Compass Room or death row for a girl like me.
“All right.” She places the tablet on the counter and snaps on a latex glove. “Go ahead and lie facedown.”
I do as I’m told. Her rubbery hands sweep across my neck.
“This will sting a little.” With the sound of pressurized air, the pain is instant, as though she’s slicing through the base of my skull with a knife. I jump and she holds me down.
I sit up, one shaking hand flying to the back of my neck. My fingers find the bump beneath my skin. “How does the chip get through?”
“The skull, the blood barrier.” The thought is suddenly terrifying—the implant—a slow bullet driving through my brain matter.
She purses her lips, obviously annoyed with the question. “Think of it as a tiny drill remotely operated. Perfectly safe, I assure you.”
Normal people get all of the time and resources to research anything they want to implement on their body. I haven’t been given that luxury. I have to trust that some smart chip I’ve never had the chance to research isn’t going to scramble my brain.
She taps the screen on her tablet in a few different places, then hands it to me. “You know what to do.”
The contract. They gave me a hard copy to read over in my cell, along with a Bible. I’ve memorized it.
The contract, that is.
One month in the prison. I may be subject to injury at any point during my stay. And if the monitor—the monitor this nurse injected into me—reads that my emotional and hormonal reactions to any simulation I’m put through are imbalanced, I will be put to death.
The contract is much longer than a few clauses, but these are the ones that matter.
With my fingernail, I sign my name. I need out of this room.
“Bringing Ibarra down,” one of my guards says into his ear piece. He takes my arm.
“It’s a zoo out there,” the other says.
They steer me into the hall. A girl exits an exam room up ahead, also cuffed and escorted. She wears the same thing as I do—an official Compass Room uniform, I guess. T-shirt and black hoodie. Gray cargo pants and Velcro boots. An interesting change to the orange I’m so used to.
Tears streak her face. She’s very pretty, with full lips and high cheekbones, skin that’s a little darker than mine, and childlike dimples. She can’t be any older than twenty.
I can’t remember who she is. The world knows. The Compass Room list has been announced, documentaries of our tragic lives flooding prime-time network television.
My guards follow the escorted girl to the elevator, our two groups stuffed uncomfortably close together as we descend to the lobby. The girl’s sniffling fills the car, and I wish she’d quit. Every damn noise from her tightens the invisible cord around my heart.
The doors open, and I follow her out.
A series of floor-length windows surround the lobby—grated and bulletproof, but somehow classy. Good ol’ federalized prison. A classy lobby for the worst of us cretins. Cells and living quarters reside beneath the ground. We are invisible. Endless. Until we are allowed on floor two for visitation.
Beyond the windows, a train with a direct track to the California Compass Rooms waits for us at the prison station.
I see the protestors through the panes, behind the fence surrounding the station walkway. They pound the chain link with their fists, their signs waving back and forth. Ready for us. Their shouts weasel their way through the bulletproof glass.
We join the line of convicts. Some tall jerk shoots me a teeth-grinding glare. He’s toned—no, more than toned. He could snap my neck in half in his sleep. His sleeves are rolled up, his bare arms freckled by the sun. All that bulk must have come from outdoor physical labor. His square jaw is clenched and not a muscle in his face even dares to twitch, which makes me wonder if he knows who I am, or if his expression is stuck that way. The guards on either side of him walk stiffly, as though they are secretly scared shitless to be near him. “Casey Hargrove, prisoner number 92354, male number five in Compass Room C. Accounted for,” his guard says as he presses his finger to his earpiece.
And then the guard escorting the girl with dimples. “Jacinda Glaser, prisoner number 48089, female number four in Compass Room C. Accounted for.”
“Evalyn Ibarra, prisoner number 39286, female number five in Compass Room C. Accounted for.”
I swear the space around me goes dead quiet for half a second. The doors open.
Vibrant sound gushes into the lobby like water through an empty canyon. I am numb. My guards drag me forward. Jacinda’s fists clench behind her back—delicate fingers and white knuckles.
I evade the wall of noise and tilt my head to the overcast sky—a final fuck you from the universe. When I bring myself back to earth, I wish I hadn’t.
Hundreds scream at us, thrusting boards with contradicting text against the fence.
Compass Rooms = Barbaric
Repent, Child of God
“You will burn in hell for what you’ve done!” someone shrieks.
A woman presses a photo of one of my victims to the chain link. She mouths my name. Evalyn.
It bounces through space, multiplying. Breeding. Evalyn. Evalyn. Evalyn.
The train waits, silent and magnetic—a silver bullet on tracks—ready to shoot us to California in a handful of hours.
I follow the line of prisoners to the turnstile. Jacinda places her thumb on a panel embedded into the arch of the station. A green light blinks brightly above her and she pushes through.
“Miss Ibarra, right thumb, please,” my guard says. I comply, and the turnstile unlocks.
My name again, sharper and angrier than the others.
“I hope it hurts—I hope it fucking HURTS.”
I’m guided up the steps and into the train car.
Seats line the walls, steel cuff armrests waiting for us with open jaws. My guard clips my ear with some kind of listening device and walks me to my seat between Jacinda and a skinny runt of a boy with black, straight hair and Jeffrey Dahmer glasses. There are ten of us all together. Ten candidates between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.
Casey sits across from me. I tilt my head, challenging him. The other candidates are silent—unnaturally so. The cuffs snap over my wrists, and our guards leave.
I recognize two of my company. A girl with a bleach-blonde pixie cut and features that could carve glass sizes me up. Colorful tattoos linger at her pale wrists and disappear into her sleeves. Valerie Crane. Killed three guys and strung up their bodies. A glint of recognition rests in her eyes—she knows who I am, no doubt. We were in the same prison wing. I never spoke with her, though. No one fucked with Valerie Crane. I knew that much.
I also recognize another crazy bastard—an undergrad at some West Coast school. He’d been arrested for drugging and kidnapping several teens and torturing them to death. He was the only one out of his posse who had been caught. Pled innocent, though, with no motive. His name clicks—Gordon—pale and pointy-chinned under a mop of sandy hair.
Wearing a smug grin, he says, “Seems the ladies are a bit more infamous than the gentlemen.” He scans the room, pausing on each of the women.
“Go fuck yourself.” Valerie’s eyes roll to the ceiling, like she’s bored with him.
Next to me, Jacinda smiles.
The quiet rumble beneath us builds as the train takes off. We have no windows, only a row of televisions imbedded into the can-like walls above our seats. They showcase the logo of Flight Express, a corporate chain of high-speed trains. Apparently they have a contract with the federal prison system.
The silence continues. Sociopaths and serial killers are the antitheses of good conversationalists. I lean back in my seat, close my eyes, and wait.
Fifteen years ago, government scientists manufactured an accurate test for morality—an obstacle course, where the simulations within proved whether a candidate was good or evil. It was named a Compass Room.
For ten years, the CR was tested over and over. Criminals were placed inside for a month to see if the CR correctly identified the true threats to humanity. I remember one case. A big, gruff-looking man by the name of Marcus Greene who had accidently killed a family drunk driving, and a petite, middle-aged woman named Fonda Harrington—a psychopath who slaughtered three of her children. The Compass Room successfully pinpointed Fonda as the threat. Over and over again, the CR correctly identified the evil, but even so, the case to implement the rooms continued to be rejected.
A terrorist attack finally convinced the Supreme Court. All charged in the bombing were forced to undergo the Compass Room’s exam. And they were all found to be, as reporters said on the news, “morally tarnished.”
After the law passed, engineers updated the Rooms to kill the wicked. They became the most accurate form of the death penalty ever created.
Other than the fact that they’re built in the middle of experimental wilderness, the public knows very little about Compass Rooms. They know that, through technology, brain waves of the candidates are measured during a simulation. Reactions are evaluated, and like a needle on a compass, the test determines the true morality—the true internal clockwork—of the criminal. If necessary, an execution takes place.
An average of two-point-five inmates survive each CR. Not the best odds.
Survivors are under strict contract to not discuss the details of the simulation. And they all keep their mouths shut, because keeping their contract means a life free of prison. It’s the way the government justifies Compass Rooms in the first place—a month of the simulation is less expensive for society than a lifetime in jail.
Two more CRs are running in simulation with ours, one for those aged twenty-six to forty, and another for forty years and older. It’s why there were so many protestors at the prison today. The CRs have never run simultaneously before, and their existence is still relatively new. People always fight against new ethical technology. Perhaps the hype will die down in a few years when they start to realize that their tax dollars won’t be going toward feeding those who should be dead anyway.
But maybe not.
A chime sounds in my ear, and my eyes flutter open. On the TV screen, a smiling woman with rimmed glasses has replaced the Flight Train logo.
“Good morning, Compass Room candidates.”
A few prisoners sneer in disgust, including Casey. All for good reason. It’s like we’re in line at a theme park, our cabin a waiting room for some science-fiction ride with lasers and flying ships.
“Allow me to verbally prepare you before your simulation begins. The moment we left the station, your one-month sentence began.”
My heart speeds up.
“All of you have passed your mandated exam and signed your contract. You each have a monitor that will calculate your emotion and hormones. It cannot invade any other aspect of your chemistry.”
The back of my neck prickles when I think of the chip burrowing deeper and deeper into my brain matter.
“How nice of them,” Valerie spits, her eyes glued to the screen.
“Also, a reminder: you will be on constant watch by CR staff at all times within your simulation, even if it may not be evident to you. Your physical choices and interaction with other inmates will be matched with your internal calculations to determine your morality status.”
Every action we make—under the radar.
“Your train will arrive at your destination in approximately one-point-seven hours.”
And with that, she disappears. But she isn’t replaced by the Flight Train logo. Instead, a documentary rolls.
A documentary of us.
There is no narrative, simply a series of news coverage clips starting with Casey’s crime. A boy who buried his father alive.
Reporters detail the night of the murder, Casey’s mug shot, and his trial. Casey himself pled guilty to the crime while his mother, his aunt, and his closest friends claimed he was being blackmailed. The evidence was nonexistent, the murder weapon—a shovel—never found.
Casey’s true moral compass remains a mystery.
I peel myself away from the television to study him. Fists clenched, he stares at the screen with hooded eyes. Gordon’s beside himself with wicked amusement. Valerie, after watching for a bit, rolls her head toward the cabin wall.
“Why are they doing this?” the kid with the Dahmer glasses whispers, loud enough for me and maybe the boy next to him to hear. “What’s the purpose of this footage?”
I glance at him. He can’t possibly be older than eighteen. Hell, if I didn’t know the Compass Room had an age minimum, I’d guess he was fourteen. His glasses are sliding down his nose. He juts his chin upward until they fall back into place.
I don’t know if he’s actually expecting an answer, but I respond anyway. “Either to shame us, or to bring us up to date since we’re going to be interacting.”
He scoffs. “Well, obviously. But why footage of our trials?”
“To increase tension. Make us skeptical of each other.”
He wiggles his nose around. “Dammit, I have an itch.”
“I’d offer to scratch it with my teeth, but—”
“Nice try, Ibarra. I don’t need footage to be skeptical of you.” He smiles and flicks his head up to swipe the bangs from his face.
I learn his name from the documentary. Tanner—tried as an adult for pushing a boy off a riverside cliff.
The footage spans everyone. Erity, the girl with almond-shaped eyes and black, pin-straight hair, convicted of “sacrificing” four girls in the name of witchcraft. Stella, the girl with the golden curls, burned her ex-boyfriend’s house to the ground with his whole family inside. Blaise, a lanky boy on the other end of my row, shot two guys at a college party when he was drunk. Salem, the boy who frighteningly looks like he could be my brother, raped several women. And finally, Jacinda, who killed a family during a car-crash-suicide attempt.
Of course, they saved the best for last. The date of the graphic flashing across the screen is today. This clip played this morning.
“Evalyn Ibarra, the most infamous of the younger candidates, has been at the center of practically every national news discussion for the past few months,” says a platinum blonde at a morning news round table. A graphic materializes on the screen behind her. “Our polls show that eighteen percent of Americans think that the Compass Room will find Ibarra innocent, sixty-five percent think that the Compass Room will find her guilty, and seventeen percent are unsure. How about those statistics, Gary?”
The camera pans out.
“Well,” Gary says, “I’m going to have to agree with national opinion on this one, Katherine. The case is no stranger to anyone who turns on the television for more than five minutes. And you know how I think the jury would have leaned if the trial had continued and Ibarra hadn’t chosen the CR option.”
“That Ibarra would have been found guilty.”
“How long do you think she’ll last in the Compass Room?”
“If we study those who’ve committed crimes of her magnitude and have also been sentenced to CRs, and take what we know of their experience, I’d give her two days.”
“Two days? You’re only giving her two days?”
“Look at Anton Freesan and Janice Grey. Neither of them lasted longer than forty-eight hours, which we found out in the minimal documentation released after their CR was finished. Their crimes were very similar to Ibarra’s.”
“But Ibarra is young. Don’t you think the CR has been engineered to take that into consideration?”
“CRs are designed to terminate the morally corrupt. Think of them as the ultimate lie-detector test. The moral nature of a human doesn’t truly change with age, which was discovered a few years ago by a team of psychoanalysts in Philadelphia, if you remember.”
“Ibarra has the same moral arrow as she will when she’s thirty, and if she’s evil, the CR will recognize that.”
Feeling the eyes of every candidate on me, I glance down. Most are scornful—hate-filled. Even though they committed crimes, I am the queen of darkness.
They have nothing to worry about. If I’m really evil, the CR will make sure that by day two, my heart isn’t beating.
The footage of my crime rolls. Crying families outside Roosevelt College. Students and professors wailing, screaming. FBI, police, bomb squad.
All storming the school to catch one of the shooters who initiated fifty-six deaths.
All storming the school to catch me.
More footage rolls from a prime-time documentary of my crime. I was one of eight who shot up a faculty banquet at the college, the only one who didn’t kill myself—psychologists figure because I chickened out at the last minute.
They also mention Nick, another shooter, and the fact that we met through Meghan. I was her best friend, he her boyfriend. When we decided to take our lives, we made sure she came with us.
I hold my breath and wait, wait for the footage to end, wait for everyone in the cabin to tear themselves from me.
One boy refuses.
You’re dead, Casey mouths.
A little door slides open right behind his head, a robotic syringe jutting forward.
The needle stabs Casey in the neck. He jerks. “The hell?”
His eyes roll to the back of his head.
My neck stings, my jaw goes numb, and the inside of the train blurs to nothing.
March 2, Last Year
At eight thirty in the morning, the sun filtered into my room, leaves creating geometrical shapes across the sheets and Liam’s bare chest. I rolled to my stomach and brushed the hair from his closed eyes. His chest rose and fell as he slept.
Waking up to Liam in the morning was a reawakening to my good luck. I always knew that high school sweethearts were a thing of fantasy. Somehow, I had managed to keep mine. Our five-year anniversary was only a few months away.
I crawled over him. The feeling of my bare skin gliding over his somehow never got old. It didn’t for him either; his skin erupted in goose bumps. He blinked a few times, focusing on me.
“There is something so sexy about watching you wake up,” I told him. “I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it.”
He rolled me over and slid on top of me, his lips finding the stretch of sensitive skin above my collarbone. It was the place he kissed and touched when he was trying to be romantic, because he knew too well that I’d melt beneath him. My hands explored his waist to bring him closer.
He kissed my jaw and said, “Even when I snore all night?”
I grinned. “I’m getting used to it.”
A crash sounded from the kitchen, followed by the ting of a metal bowl rolling across the linoleum.
“Okay, since you now know that I’m awake, you should come out. If you aren’t screwing, that is,” Meghan hollered. “I made you two breakfast.”
“Thought I smelled bacon.” Liam rolled off of me, sitting up.
“Why is she cooking breakfast? She never cooks me breakfast.” I’d given her the keys to my car last night. Liam and I ended up drinking too much and had to take a cab home. She probably crashed into something and was now trying to make up for it, I thought.
I was the crazy junior who had not only clung to my high school boyfriend, but my childhood best friend as well. So many students I met since I started college thought I was insane. College was a time to break free from childhood—a time for students to experiment and sleep with people they didn’t even like and join sororities where the members, for a few fleeting years, would be as close to them as sisters until they graduated and never saw them again.
The three of us could have gone somewhere other than Phoenix for school. But Phoenix was only an hour away from home, and in Phoenix, we’d have each other.
And had them I did. I’d been living with Meghan for three years. Liam had his own apartment with a roommate, but he was practically living with us as well. Our third wheel, Meghan liked to call him.
Liam leaned over me and kissed my neck, his languid tongue rolling over my collarbone. I gasped as his fingers traced the inside of my thigh. “I love you,” he whispered. “Meghan’s probably just excited. She knows what’s waiting for you.”
“A quickie before class?”
“Funny.” His voice rumbled in my ear. “I meant out on the patio.”
He had piqued my curiosity. But his eyes that were lighter than the sun-washed sky outside weren’t giving me a clue as to what he was getting at.
“That was your cue to get your ass out of bed.”
“Thanks for that.” I smacked him playfully and sat, locating my pajamas scattered across the floor. I dressed and tied my hair up. As I walked out to the living room, I hoped Meghan had made an excessive amount of bacon.
I looked toward the sliding glass door. On the balcony sat a full-sized wooden easel. I squealed and ran outside. Liam followed.
“Why?” I asked.
“What do you mean, why?”
I spun to him. “What’s the occasion?”
“I’m tired of seeing you ‘working’ with colored pencils and printer paper.”
I didn’t have any decent art supplies. It wasn’t like I’d been an artist all my life. I never took any art classes prior to college, but I knew I could draw. I knew I could conceptualize images and create them.
Then one day, during my freshman year, I decided to change my major to art. Because being a business major was unfulfilling.
Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what you get your degree in. People just want to think it does.
I didn’t tell Mom until the summer before my sophomore year. Safe to say she was still bitter.
“You didn’t have to,” I said, even though I was so ecstatic that I couldn’t stop shaking.
Meghan sauntered outside. She wore an apron from the coffee shop she used to work at. “You know what this means?” She waved a dirty spatula in the air.
“We can get our blog up and running.” I bounced on my toes.
“We can get our effing blog up and running.”
Meghan and I liked the concept of teamwork, and an organic fan base. We had this brilliant idea not long before. Meghan was a photography major and damn good photographer. We’d been best friends ever since high school, and even then, she was obsessed with her work. We wanted to play around with perception—how a photograph could transform into a painting. It could be the same image and yet entirely different.
But this was only theory.
“Art-supply shop this afternoon?” she asked.
“Damn, eggs are burning.” Meghan ran inside.
Liam pushed his sandy hair back. “I gotta take a shower and get to the library. Even on Saturdays I can’t relax. College blows.”
“I love you.”
He shot me that perfect, lopsided grin of his. “Because I buy you easels?”
“Because you know me. You know that a wooden easel means more than the world to me.”
He took my hand and dragged me to him, planting a kiss on my forehead. “I love you too. More than you know.”
I have the worst hangover imaginable. I peel my tongue from the roof of my mouth and swallow away the bile in my throat. Water. I need water, now.
I open my eyes to clean, bright light and groan, covering my head with a flat, itchy pillow.
Some party last night.
I stiffen. There was no party last night. There hasn’t been a party for ten months. I’ve been in jail.
Yanking my head from beneath the pillow, I blink until my vision focuses.
Pine panels cover the walls and floor. Shelves scattered with knickknacks sit above a whitewashed vanity. Light trickles in from a French-paned window on the wall farthest from the door.
Someone snores beneath me.
As I sit, I bite back the urge to groan. I’m still wearing a hoodie and cargo pants. My boots are by the door.
The Compass Room.
I try to remember when I was last awake, rubbing my wrists where they should be cuffed. Did I enter the simulation? Did I escape alive?
All I can remember is the train, and the other criminals. The needle that went into my neck.
My gaze locks on a navy backpack at the end of my bed. EVALYN is stamped on the front.
I don’t remember ever owning this pack. I take a moment to contemplate what could possibly be inside, then zip it open.
A T-shirt, cotton underwear, a canteen, a lighter, socks, a toothbrush, and at the very bottom, a blanket. Survival gear.
I don’t know why this belongs to me now. I don’t even know where I am. The one thing engrained into me since entering the prison system is that I should follow orders: when to leave my cell, when to change my clothes, when to see my visitors, when to eat.
Where is the guard who’s supposed to tell me what to do?
I shake out my ponytail and run my fingers through my tangled waves, secure it up, and swing my feet off the bed. Taking my bag with me, I step down the ladder to learn the identity of my bunkmate.
The bag propped up at the bottom of the bed reads JACINDA, and the girl with dimples lies on her back, an arm flung over her face.
She’s the suicide girl—took out a family in the process and lived to reap the punishment. She had been crying before we left prison. I wonder if it was because she still wants to die, or because she might not get out of here alive.
I tear myself away from her and walk to the window. Before me, a hill covered in pine rolls downward. The sun sits at a slant in the sky—it will be dark soon. I’ve been out for either a day or a handful of hours.
Nothing but forest. No buildings, no roads. Just a thick blanket of green all the way to the jagged mountains in the distance.
“Where the hell are we?” I mutter to myself.
“Is this the Compass Room?”
I spin to Jacinda, who has propped herself up on her elbows. Her expression shifts as she registers who I am, unfocused eyes darting around the room, like she’s trying to figure out if we’re alone.
She’s afraid of me. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
“I don’t know,” I say.
When she spots the backpack at the foot of her bed, she crawls to it, her fingers tracing the letters. “Jacinda,” she murmurs, retracting her hand like the fabric bit her. “No one calls me that.”
“What do they call you?”
“Jace,” she says warily. She studies me up and down, mindlessly clutching the strap of her backpack and wringing it.
An awkward silence fills the air between us before I say, “Okay, Jace. I’m gonna take a look around. See if I can figure out where we are.”
“The door isn’t locked?”
I didn’t even think of that. Simple stained wood, the door is so unlike the bars I’m used to staring at for hours on end. I walk toward it, place my hand on the brass handle, and turn. With a click, the door creaks open.
“Not locked.” I peer into the hall.
The dry air smells of cedar and dust. Light streaks across the floor from the sole window to my left. Six doors line the hall, two of them open. At the right end, a staircase leads downward and toward the trickling of voices.
“I’ll be back.”
“Please”—Jace clutches her bag to her chest—“don’t leave me here alone.”
The way she begs me makes no sense. A moment before, she had seemed frightened of me. Maybe Jace is afraid of everything. And she’s supposed to be a morally tarnished criminal. Are you kidding me?
I’d rather not have anyone tagging along, but she’s too pathetic to say no to.
“Come on, then.”
She hurries to me, holding her pack close. Once in the hall, I fling my own onto my shoulders and adjust the straps until it’s tight against my back. Jace and I walk side by side to the staircase.
Erity stands in the center of the living room, gazing at the stone-lined fireplace, the huge leather sofas, the overhanging chandelier made entirely out of deer antlers. She wears a pack too.
In the kitchen, Stella opens and closes each cabinet. “There’s food! And liquor. Lots and lots of liquor.”
A small squeak escapes Jace’s throat.
Valerie has snuck up on us. She stares over my shoulder.
We’ve woken up in a mountain resort with food and tons of booze. It’s like the government’s secret evil plan is to reward us for our bad behavior.
Salem enters from the deck. That’s six of us. Four still sleep. “Is there anyone here?” I ask. “Anyone besides us?”
“Not that I can tell,” Salem says.
“Nope.” He harbors a fevered glint. “Looks like they left us all alone.”
A chill runs up my back. Stuck here with this bastard—a boy who raped thirteen girls—isn’t exactly what I’d call a vacation.
“He won’t touch you,” Valerie murmurs, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. “You know what I do to fuckers who can’t keep their hands to themselves.”
I do know. Not just from her crime, but from her infamy in our prison wing.
“Did we ever talk?” I ask. “In the H Wing?”
“I didn’t talk. I kicked the shit out of people.” She shrugs. “And you . . . you got the shit kicked out of you enough. Picking on you wouldn’t have been satisfying.”
“Oh, thanks,” I respond dryly.
A wry smile twists her lips. “Maybe we should have talked. You know . . . been prison BFFs or something.”
“You would’ve gotten bored real quick. I’m far too vanilla for your tastes.”
“What’s vanilla?” Jace whispers. She gapes at us with owl eyes.
Valerie’s mouth twitches like she’s itching to laugh. When she reaches out and pats Jace’s shoulder, Jace flinches. Without answering her, Valerie turns back to me. “Too vanilla as a friend or a fuck buddy?”
I narrow my eyes. “Both.”
She sighs dramatically. “Yeah, you’re right. I probably would have gotten bored of you real fast.” She steps forward, leaning against the balcony. “You were a good little prison inmate, letting all those girls beat the snot out of you without a fight. But here . . . we have some freedom now. I better keep an eye on you, Ibarra.”
I raise an eyebrow. “You afraid of me?”
She bursts into laughter and makes her way down the stairs.
“I don’t get it,” Jace says when Valerie’s out of reach. “Was she flirting with you?”
“I don’t think so. I think we made an alliance.”
She’s quiet for a long moment, and then asks, “Can I be in on the alliance?”
I grin inwardly and nod. “Sure.”
In prison, alliances are created so inmates can watch each other’s backs for potential attackers. But I don’t know what an alliance here means.
I study Salem and the space between us, vacant of bars or chains or glass. Vacant of any form of protection.
Maybe here, you need people watching your back too.
Other than a huge deck overlooking the forest, there isn’t much else to explore in the stone-crusted lodge. The air outside is clean and cool, dense with the scent of evergreen and soil.
We’ve been dropped in the middle of nowhere.
The rest have woken. Casey wears a grimace like he’s ready to beat the living hell out of someone. I’m starting to wonder if he always looks like a vicious dog.
Stella walks into the kitchen. She unzips her backpack and rummages through cupboards, collecting various cans of food and tossing them into her bag.
“It’s a bad idea,” Casey calls from the living room.
“What is?” I ask.
“I’m leaving,” Stella says. She flips back her blonde hair and zips up her pack, tossing it over her shoulder.
“Leaving? To where?”
“They knocked us out, dumped us here, and gave us survival gear. So I’m going away. To anywhere.”
“So you’re going to wander into the wilderness?” Valerie chuckles sarcastically. She leans back against the marble of the kitchen island. “Great plan, dipshit.”
Stella’s fingers grip the straps of her backpack so tightly that her knuckles are white. “They gave us provisions, and there’s no way in hell I’m sticking around here with you creeps.”
“You have no idea what’s out there,” Casey says.
Stella barks a laugh. “You honestly think I’m safer here? With a bunch of killers and a rapist?”
“I’ll only show you a good time, sweetheart,” says Salem as he rummages through cabinets on the other side of the kitchen. It’s such a half-assed comment, like he’s making his presence known because he can.
“Point taken,” says Casey. “But if they gave us provisions, outside must be where our tests are.”
“Oh, stop pretending you care what happens to me. You’re as bad as Salem. All of you are.”
Casey tenses. “You don’t know me.”
“And you don’t know me,” says Stella. “I’m not afraid of those tests because I shouldn’t even be here.”
Valerie scoffs. “Oh yeah, I’m sure you were totally justified in burning alive your boyfriend and his whole family.”
Stella winces. “Fuck you,” she hisses before crossing the living room and heaving open the front door.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Wicked We Have Done popped up as a suggested read somewhere last week, and the synopsis was intriguing enough for me to put it on my Goodreads To Read list. Only few hours after I did that, a blogger I know commented on my status update, saying that it was a fantastic book. Good to know, because the last two books I tried to read were a bust. I picked them both up thinking I was reading a dystopian story, and instead got a romance in a dystopian setting. Disappointing, to say the least. I like romance in my books, but I don’t want it to be the main focus of the story. The synopsis for The Wicked We Have Done on Amazon calls this book perfect for fans of Divergent, so I was again expecting more of a dystopian story. It wasn’t, but what I got wasn’t bad. So, here’s the rundown. Evalyn has been accused of a horrible crime, and in her world they have created a test that measures a person’s morality. They throw the accused – ten total – into the Compass Room (a Hunger Games type setting where nothing is as it seems) for one month, during which time all their emotional responses are measured. If they’re proven to be morally corrupt, the system kills them. But if during that month they prove to be truly repentant and no longer a danger to society, they are released. An interesting setting, to say the least. It was dark and twisted, and kept me guessing. What’s more, is that Sarah Harian was able to create characters who were despicable at the onset of the story, but was also able to slowly reveal their human side as the tale progressed. Even making the reader care enough about murderers to actually start rooting for their survival. There were an interesting cast of characters: a kid who killed his bully, a girl who accidentally took out a family during her failed suicide attempt, a real sociopath, a girl who killed to avenge her sister, and a boy who buried his own father alive. The stories are all played out during their time in the Compass Room, and the author did a great job of drawing me into the lives of these people. The problem I had with this book, was the world building. Obviously, it’s set in the future. We don’t have the technology to do most of the things that were done in the Compass Room, so I know it’s not current day. However, I’m not sure when it was set, and all the flashbacks to before Evalyn’s arrest made it feel more current. I wanted there to be more of a stark contrast to the world we live in now so I could get a better idea of when this story was set, but I didn’t get that. The Hunger Games was an obvious inspiration to the author. The Compass Room had all the makings of the arena, the bond Evalyn had with her brother, and Evalyn’s stressful relationship with her mother. Even the very end when Casey is barely hanging on and the creators swoop in to save him was how the first Hunger Games book ended. But the world and characters and plot were so different that it was easy to get lost in the story, giving it a voice of its own. I literally read this book in a day, despite a horrible sinus headache. I just couldn’t put it down. ***Spoilers*** The ending was a bit of a bust for me, though. The whole time they were in the Compass Room you knew it was building up to something, but what was impossible to tell. Then Evalyn forms a bond with Casey, and you can’t help rooting for them to survive. I expected something to happen that would wrap it up and justify all the horrible things that had happened, but instead I got a bunch of people being let out on a technicality. Not to mention the fact that the way I was strung along, waiting to see if Casey survived was annoying. I felt like the end was insanely anti-climactic. I see that there’s a sequel and a novella that follow this one up, but reading the synopsis of both don’t make me want to read them at all, so I guess this will be it for me. Overall, it was a very enjoyable read and one I’d highly recommend.
Read this book pretty much in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. It's fast paced, intriguing, and asks all the right questions without being pedantic enough to spoon feed the reader any clear answers. Though it has a very "Cabin in the Woods" feel to it, the book doesn't rip off anything - it pays homage to the greats of science fiction and horror instead. Loved it. Seriously can't wait for the sequel.
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I began reading this book. I read a lot of new adult, but this is the first that hasn't been entirely romance-focused. Upon reading the synopsis, I wondered how a new adult dystopian novel would differ from a young adult one. There's not a huge difference, honestly, except the things happening here were generally more graphic than in any YA dystopian I've read before. The concept of this novel was intriguing to me. Nothing is ever as it seems in a dystopian and I knew this would be no exception. The characters are sent through seriously disturbing trials that all revolve, in some way, around the crimes that landed them in the Compass Room to begin with. I won't spoil anything for you, but expect to be seriously creeped out by the things these characters deal with. This book describes everything in a way that makes you feel like you're right there experiencing it for yourself. There are a LOT of complicated characters in this story. It was a little difficult to keep them straight at first, but as in most dystopians, the majority of them aren't around for the duration. Once the cast was whittled down a bit, it was easier to focus on those who would play a major part in the story. All criminals to varying degrees, some of these people were rather disturbed, as you can imagine. Others were quite normal, despite what they did to land them in this situation. We learn early on the events that landed each and every one of them in the Compass Room, but we don't know the details behind most of them for quite awhile. Even the background behind what landed Evalyn, the main character, in this situation wasn't fully revealed until nearly the end of the book. While romance isn't the focus of the books, there's definitely a good bit of it happening. There are also a lot of lesbian undertones in the book, and even a lesbian relationship. It was nice to see some diversity in this genre. Of course, most of that relationship develops outside of what the reader is privy to at the time. The relationship between Evalyn and Casey was perfect. It developed quickly, but I definitely wouldn't consider it love at first sight. They made a fantastic team and I don't think the book would have been the same without this particular pairing. It was easy to see how much they cared about each other and how much they wanted to both save themselves and the friends they made in the Compass Room as well. The Wicked We Have Done was suspenseful and kept me on the edge until the very last page. I still have loads of questions – namely, what in the world is Chaos Theory?! – and I can't wait to (hopefully) get some answers when the second book in the series is released in September. If you're looking for a different type of new adult book that has some great characters and an intriguing storyline, look no further. There's more than a hint of the sexy romance I've come to expect from new adult books, as well. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Evalyn has been convicted of manslaughter and her option is the death penalty or try her luck in the “moral” compass room. A “room”, or location, that is simulated to test and show a persons true character, thus determining whether said person should be put down like a rabid dog or allowed to live. Evalyn of course chooses to go in the compass room and finds herself in a remote area with 9 other killers. She forms alliances to help protect herself from some of the other candidates but everyone views her as their biggest threat. This was one insane read. There was a lot happening between what takes on in the compass room and flashbacks to her life before she became a killer. I will be honest that is sort of distracted me from the story because I would keep getting pulled from the action but at the same time, it was good to get insight into her life prior to everything. It really helped to redeem her as a character. The romance was an interesting twist in the story. I don’t know if it was overly necessary, I wasn’t feeling a huge connection between the two. I liked that the author didn’t go for the insta-love though. Instead there was loathing and contempt between them and it slowly built into love. There also wasn’t a lot of sex scenes and what was there was not fleshed out in detail unlike the majority of new-adult novels. I really enjoyed that the author took the new adult mold and flipped it the bird. I honestly never knew what inter-mix was before this but I am definitely a fan. There’s sci-fi, romance, new adult and thriller all wrapped up into one pretty awesome story. I don’t know how it will do as being a series. I felt like as it would’ve been awesome as a stand lone. I guess we will just have to see where the author takes the story next.
An intense, thrilling, romantic, thought-provoking read, The Wicked We Have Done was absolutely fantastic. I loved this book. It kept me hooked and on the edge of my seat the entire way through and left me anxious to find out what happens next. Loved this book! Evalyn was a wonderful heroine. She feels intense guilt for the crime she was convicted for and was more concerned about protecting her family than saving herself. I liked how the details of what actually happened were slowly revealed throughout the book and how nothing was how it first seemed. Evalyn was strong and proved herself as a worthy heroine several times over. I really liked her character. She was totally badass. Casey was the love interest and he was amazing. Like Evalyn, the truth of his crime wasn't as it first seemed. He was really very sweet and protective of those he loved. I thought he was wonderful and I absolutely adored him. The romance was lovely. It wasn't the main focus of the book, but it was an important element. Evalyn and Casey were a wonderful couple. They made one hell of an unstoppable team and they were a perfect match. Both were incredibly strong and would do anything to protect their loved ones. There was definitely some chemistry between them, but that factor was low, since they kind of had more important things to think about. I thought they were great together. I loved how all the other characters, particularly the other killers, were portrayed. I liked how some were portrayed as the epitome of a psychopath. A maniac that took pleasure in hurting and killing people. But, as the book went on, others were portrayed in a way that made things not so black and white. I thought that was really well done. The plot was fast paced and I was totally hooked the entire way through. There were tons of thrills and near-death situations that kept me on the edge of my seat. My one problem with the book is that we didn't learn what the Chaos Theory was. It got mentioned, but never explained. But, since I assume it will be explained in the next books, it wasn't a big problem. I really enjoyed the story and the ending has me excited for book 2. The Wicked We Have Done was a brilliant New Adult read! I absolutely loved this book. It had thrills, romance, twists, secrets, and so much more. New Adult lovers, this is a book you'll definitely want to read. *I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian is the first book in her new adult dystopian thriller, Chaos Theory series. When asked to review this book, I thought the premise sounded interesting, and decided to give it a try. I was totally surprised to find myself immediately hooked and unable to put this book down until the very end. If this is Sarah Harian’s debut novel, please please count me in for the next one and thereafter, as this is a magical beginning to a wonderful career. The Wicked We Have Done is a story of survival and redemption in a futuristic world. Not quite like the Hunger Games, though with a survival theme very similar. This is a story with young people who have been convicted of a major crime, who are given a choice; immediate death penalty or accept a one month stay in The Compass Room. If they survive, they will go free, but the percentage of survival is slimmer then none. The Compass Room is even scarier than the arena in the Hunger Games. This was a thriller a minute, and though these characters, many of whom were bad to the bone; some of the others you found yourself caring very much for, as you prayed and rooted for the their survival. Evalyn Ibarra is our heroine, who is the major focus of this story. Evalyn committed a terrible crime, and is considered a terrorist, and very much hated. But is Evalyn truly guilty? Throughout the book, there are some flash backs, as we find out what really happened, and why. From the start, when we meet Evalyn, we find ourselves becoming attached to her, as we watch her say goodbye to her little 5 year old brother, who was adorable and precious. Evalyn’s strong love for her brother stood out. Allowing us to ask ourselves, “can you truly be capable of such love, and yet be a cold blooded murderer”? We knew something there was something more behind it, as we anxiously waited to find out more. When taken away, Evalyn travels the other criminals who are going to The Compass Room, and before they reach their destination, a video is shown describing each of their crimes. To tell too much more would be giving too many spoilers. But I will say that Harian gives us some fantastic characters; Evalyn is awesome; Casey, was mean at the start, but turned into an equally awesome hero; Valerie, was totally unlikeable when we first meet her, but she too turned out to be great; Jace, Tanner, were also very good, and the unredeemable characters were written very well. Harian had us glued to our seat, as each of them in The Compass Room must face their past, and find a way to survive against the odds, at the same time prove that they can be redeemed. Will Evalyn survive? Is there life after The Compass Room? The Wicked We Have Done is a totally different story of survival, in a terrifying race to the finish. Harian pulls quite a bit of our emotions in this exciting story, filled with nonstop action & great characters; while reading we range from emotional, scary, sad, and very very intense. Within this tense story, there is a budding romance that at first you could not imagine, but turned out to be a beautiful slow to build relationship. I cannot wait for the next book in this series. Sarah Harian is an excellent writer, and I can look forward to more of the same in the future.
HOLY COW! This book… yes, it drew me in, and yes, it had a bit of a Hunger Games feel, but seriously! *claps hands* GO SARAH! This book is so interesting and fresh, I am so glad to have gotten the chance to read it! I <3 NEW IDEAS, and this book is one of them! As I’ve said in other reviews, romance books for me aren’t a grab, but add in a killer plot line and you’ve got me hooked! I love romance as long as I have a story to go along with it, and Sarah has done this. I feel as though the Compass Room was such an interesting idea, testing the morality of an accused killer, somewhat like Divergent’s testing, it really pulled out some wonderful character building as the story went on, and really gave us a new idea for a justice system. Evalyn has to have her thoughts examined, all while playing a sort of game that will determine if she gets freedom or death. Her, along with other young people, who I must say, the author did a good job pulling quiet a few of them out of the background, and fleshing them out, even if they weren’t the main character, and I love to see that! The author really took a genre and concept that has been flying off the shelves for YA, and crafting into something deeper & stronger for the NA genre, and I’ve got to say, I was impressed. Some people don’t like seeing books in the same vein as others, but honestly, it’s a theme, and there’s to rule that says author’s can’t play with it. Hunger Games pulled from Battle Royale, and so on and so forth, and I feel like yelling, “DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS THEME,” when I see people complaining. Sarah does an outstanding job putting her personal creative spin on this genre, and I adored it. The character’s had a really intangible strength to them, in the face of what they were undergoing, and I did think that you really pull the most from characters when you put them in situations like The Compass Room. She focuses on the story, over the romance, and doesn’t throw in any cliched love triangle moments. Once you pick this book up, you’ll keep reading… it’s well written, with a lot of thought behind it, and it shines as a debut novel for Sarah Harian! I’m excited to see more from her! *I was given a copy from Penguin via NetGalley for an honest review
Exciting book! I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review. 4 Stars What an exciting book! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I went into the book seeing lots of comparisons to The Hunger Games. I loved The Hunger Games but was worried that any book drawing so many comparisons would be too similar. I have found that many times the books that I like the best are completely different from anything else that I have read so I was a bit hesitant regarding the comparisons. I hoped to see the excitement of that book in a unique way. I think that this book was able to deliver. Evalyn is on her way to the Compass Room as the book begins. The Compass Room is a new part of the justice system that analyzes a person's thoughts while in the room. Each person will either make it out and be released or will be terminated within the game. Evalyn enters the Compass Room with quite a few other young adults and teens. They must face multiple obstacles as time goes on as the number of participants continues to drop. The characters of Evalyn, Chase, Tanner, Valerie, and Jace really stood out in this book. I found myself rooting for this unlikely group of heroes. We learn about the events that brought Evalyn to the Compass Room through flashbacks spread throughout the book. Each flashback added a piece of the puzzle regarding her crime and made me empathize with her more and more. As the book progressed, I found that many of the prisoners within the Compass Room were there because of their reaction to horrible events. This book shows the main characters working together to make the best of a bad situation. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes an exciting read. One point that I feel that I should mention is that this book does contain sex. With all the comparisons being made between this book and The Hunger Games, I feel it is important to remind everyone that the audience for this book is a little different. I think my daughter would love to read this book but she is probably a bit young right now. I am sure that parents out there will make the decision regarding this book that is right for their family. I plan to continue with this series and look for other works by this author.
The Wicked We Have Done. Sarah Harian Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews. This book is a little outside my usual genre, its NA and romance, but the content is very different to what’s mostly available in the NA market Its not a buy meets girl HEA, sweet book, but one where the participants meet after having been convicted of a crime, and have opted to let a machine judge whether they live or die. The Compass Room is a sort of futuristic moral compass which takes their reactions to simulated events and judges them, there's no trial, no prison, participants either go free – very unlikely – or die there and then. Its something that could well happen at some point in the future, as we begin to rely more and more on technology as the answer to everything. “The computer never lies” we hear over and over, and yet..it's totally dependent on what info is programmed in. We've currently lie detectors, fingerprinting and retina scanners, DNA tests, all supposedly tamper and foolproof, but one wonders, are they human tamper proof from the other end? Are we right to depend so much on the results? This book shows very chillingly what could happen if we take things too far. Its quite horrific and graphic in parts, and for a wimpy weed like me that's hard to take, and I had to skim some parts. I felt the story too was a bit choppy for me, I wanted to know what it was Evalyn had done, wanted to know why others reacted as they did, and more about each person as a person not just their crimes. I didn't really connect with this book, more because of my needs though, than because its not a good book. I'm sure those who like this genre will love it – I was looking at the romance, and that's just a very small part of the whole, with the rest being the CR and its actions, where my fears over the future of technology and realism meant I didn't enjoy that part. Clearly there's more to come, and despite not really enjoying this book it has got me hooked in some ways, as I really want to know what happens to them next, and what happens about the Compass Room. Its pro iced at £2.49, and though I didn’t have page/kb info I’d guess from location number and time it took to be about 120 – 150 pages. Stars: three, a read that was really well written, but sadly was not quite what I enjoy. Remember as ever that’s a personal opinion, and not a reflection of book and plot quality ARC supplied by Netgalley