The opening pages of Kelley York’s YA thriller, Hushed, introduce us to Archer Pond, a college student who, after failing to protect his best friend, Vivian Hilton from a brutal attack during their childhood, has devoted his existence to righting the wrongs done to her. I wasn’t sure at first if this book was going to be for me or not – considering it’s no secret our main character has murdered before – but I decided to give the book a try, and I have never been so glad that I did! Hushed was heart-wrenching, and so breathtaking that I stayed up way too late one night to finish it; Hushed had its hooks in me as deeply as Vivian into Archer, but in the best way.
I struggled with Archer throughout the book. There were times where I was not sure if I could like him, much less sympathize with him. But as Kelley York wound her story around my heart, I found myself gravitating toward Archer, who despite his valiant attempts to distance himself from everyone around him, was at heart, the same scared boy he’d been years ago, during Vivian’s darkest hours. Archer grew up trying to make up for his perceived weakness, keeping everyone except Vivian at arm’s length, never truly bonding with anyone, be it a friend or a romantic partner. All his hopes were wrapped up so tightly in Vivian that he never noticed her suffocating him – until Evan.
It’s been a week since I finished Hushed and I am still thinking about Archer and Evan. These two are going to haunt me for awhile, I expect. Evan comes totally unexpectedly into Archer’s dismal existence, at once flipping on a switch inside Archer, bringing a new side of him to life. Evan strips off Archer’s blinders, and makes him see both his life and Vivian for what they are. Archer has become Vivian’s creation – he’s nothing without her, but watching him slowly begin to trust Evan, seeing their bond flourish, seeing Archer begin to view himself as something other than an extension of Vivian was so poignant. With Evan, Archer comes to life in new ways, and what I loved most about them is that was never simply about lust or romance. It was obvious how Evan felt about Archer, just like it was clear that even though Archer wasn’t sure how he felt about Evan, there was a deep sense of caring and trust between them; the two males were always about friendship and faith, at their core. I adored the unexpected responses Evan pulled from Archer, and seeing their interaction. I cried once or twice over them, and a few of their scenes literally took my breath away – they were that gorgeous.
The pacing in Hushed was right on track – slowing down when it needed to, to better focus on the relationship blossoming between the experienced Evan and the innocent Archer – and then speeding along toward the tense climax. I also really enjoyed the different relationships between the characters, especially that of Archer and Marissa, Vivian’s mother. None of the characters felt like stereotypes. I was disappointed with how things turned out with Archer and his mom, since that relationship had suffered so much since the death of Archer’s father, alluded to several times throughout the book.
Finally, there is Vivian, the worst sort of female. Objectively, I can see how she was meant to be an incredibly sympathetic character, but I despised her. Yes, she was a victim at one point in her life, but between her own tendency to place her trust and blind faith in the wrong people, and her parasitic relationship with Archer, I mostly spent the entire book wanting to shake her. I liked her at first, but as her character degenerated further, she made me a bit ill. By the end of the book, I couldn’t find any reason to feel sorry for her. She wanted to destroy Archer, and any happiness he had found, and I was never so happy as I was when he started to see her for what and who she was, although that was very heart-breaking, in its own way.
Overall, despite a few gripes I might have had with the story (mainly how one or two of the arcs turned out), Hushed gripped me from the start, and refused to let me go. I had to keep reading. I had to finish, to know how it turned out. And now, I find myself hoping that Kelley York might one day revisit these characters, if only because I’m still wondering and worrying (and swooning) over Evan and Archer, and waiting to see where they go from the ending of Hushed. Kelley York’s debut novel is sweet and tender, exhilarating and difficult, explosive and heartrending – genre-bending YA fiction at its best.
In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands. I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.
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