I finished this book a few weeks before writing this review and I still can’t believe how a teenage werewolf book was able to impact me in the way it did. It is a testament to the skill of the author that I cared so deeply about the characters in a genre that I don’t typically read. A YA urban fantasy book is not one that I would normally pick up to read but I’m so glad I did with Phased.
Phased focuses mainly on two werewolf sisters, Val and Lyla. I became emotionally invested in them almost immediately after I started reading, and this kept me turning pages until I was done. I read the whole book in two sittings because I had to know what happened to the sisters. Val and Lyla are trueblood werewolves, meaning they are 100% werewolf blood and they were raised in the wild, and not among humans. When they were young they were captured and put in a facility to “domesticate” them to “help” them live among humans. While there they were experimented on in horrible ways that you learn more about through the course of the book. This of course causes significant trauma for the sisters, which is a major theme of the novel.
I really appreciated how the author handles the depiction of their trauma. It might be the best depiction I’ve ever read. In a lot of books I read characters with PTSD and other trauma are dramatized or have some token traumatic episodes but in this novel it feels so real. The author doesn’t pull any punches in showing how their past affects Val and Lyla, and the impact it has on every part of their day to day lives. The most random thing can trigger some emotional response from one of them, which is brutal to read because you can viscerally feel the pain they are experiencing through the author’s vivid prose. This is somewhat tempered by the relationship between Val and Lyla, whenever one of them is going through trauma, the other is there to comfort them and help them through it. They also go through ups and downs, they have fights and arguments just like any pair of siblings, but you can always tell the love is there.
If you couldn’t tell, the relationship between Val and Lyla was the highlight of the novel for me, but if I do have one nitpick it’s that it took me a little while to differentiate between their two POVs. The sisters have very different personalities but for some reason for the first few chapters I had trouble telling who the POV was. This changes though and for the rest of the book it was very clear to me. The other relationships they make at the human school they attend were also well done, the side characters didn’t feel entirely developed but they were not one-note either. There was a little bit of the YA love interest angst as well but not much at all and it didn’t hurt my experience with the book.
The werewolf aspects of this book were also very interesting for me. They spend most of the book on suppressants to prevent them from being able to change, but it doesn’t work as well on Val and Lyla since they are truebloods so each full moon they partially phase. Those moments were very cool and the looks we got into werewolf magic and culture piqued my interest. I would love to dive into those parts more deeply in future books in the series.
I would say the novel is mostly fast paced, though not necessarily in that it is full of action. The plot moves forward rapidly throughout the book, and we often get small time jumps of days or weeks to get to the next plot point. The ending of the book was very intense, I was so stressed and stayed up longer than I should have to finish it because I had to know what happened to Val and Lyla. There are some twists thrown in that I did not see coming and the ending was a great cap to the book.
Though not the darkest book I’ve read, Phased is dark for a YA novel, and an emotionally heart wrenching story that will make you feel all the feelings. Even if you don’t read YA fantasy I highly recommend you pick this one up, I don’t either and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I look forward to reading further entries in the series, even though I’m pretty sure the author is going to make me hurt even more.