Cover of Escape From Eden, featuring a brunette white woman's face behind and shadowed by branches

About the Book

Title: Escape From Eden
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Big Face in the Underbrush
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Action Flick
Bonus Factors: Cults
Anti-bonus Factor: Mindless Drones
Relationship Status: Co-Escapees

Cover Story: Big Face in the Underbrush

We haven’t had a case of Big Face in a while—are publishers finally taking note?—but this is a really good example. My initial thought was, “Why is Ashley Greene hiding in the bushes?” but I am assuming that’s probably not her. Although, sparkly vampires do like to lurk in the forest …

The Deal:

Mia has lived much of her young life in Edenton, a supposedly pious religious community tucked away in the jungles of South America. She’s not entirely sold on the doctrine preached by the community’s leader, the Reverend Elias Eden, but she’s not sure how to break away. When troubled bad boy Gabriel and his parents join the community, Mia’s eyes are opened to what’s really happening in Edenton … and it’s most definitely not for the greater good.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Unlike some of the children and young people in Edenton, Mia’s only lived in the community for six years (since she was 10), so she vaguely remembers the outside world. Her memories, and her naturally inquisitive nature, force her into a daily struggle to remain docile and submissive to the Reverend and his minions. I like that about her. I’ve never been one for religious fanaticism, so I appreciate a girl who’s got her eyes open and is willing to question the status quo.

That said, the world changes a lot in six years, and Mia’s naivety did get a little tedious from time to time. However, I’d have a great time introducing her all the pop culture she’s missed out on.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Gabriel is the quintessential bad boy—hot, mysterious, tortured and impertinent. For Mia, who’s known most of the guys her age in Edenton for years—and is asked by the community leaders to consider them as “brothers”, ick—Gabriel is a total breath of fresh air. I’m a sucker for a swoon built on a flirty, love/hate relationship, and Escape From Eden doesn’t disappoint.

Talky Talk: Action Flick

Elisa Nader tells a good story, interweaving light foreshadowing into character dialogue and descriptions and Mia’s interactions with her fellow Edentonians. There’s not a lot of backstory or filler; both the pace and the intrigue build quickly, and there isn’t any downtime once the plot gets going. The book is short—the PDF version I read only has 322 pages and the hardcover looks to only have 272—but filled to the brim. I think had it been any longer, the book would have suffered for it. (But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t left wanting more, in a good way.)

Bonus Factor: Cults

Communities like Edenton, which could definitely be classified as a cult, are such weird, complicated entities. On the one hand, they’re often started by people with well-meaning ideas—the creation of a safe place removed from the “horrors” of modern society—but on the other, these creators also often seem to either a. be more than a little crazy or b. become changed by the power they possess. Cults and the people who create them can be both fascinating and a little terrifying, but the thrills of Escape From Eden are all thanks to them.

Anti-bonus Factor: Mindless Drones

Characters from Shaun of the Dead

One of the reasons I liked Mia was because she wasn’t one of the Edenton sheep. People who blindly follow individuals in positions of power or doctrine just because they’re told to drive me batty. These type of people and cults go hand-in-hand, however, so their ilk being in Escape from Eden is no surprise … but I still want to punch the lot of them in the face for being so gutless and easily manipulated.

Relationship Status: Co-Escapees

Book, at first you had me questioning your choice of date destination, but I soon got past it through your secrets and rapid pace. I found myself caring for you, cheering you on, gleefully anticipating the next twist. And then it was over. You left me too soon, Book, but it was fun while it lasted.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Merit Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Escape From Eden is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.