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TRUEL1F3 by Jay Kristoff

It is no secret I adore Jay Kristoff’s novels. I have two different tattoos containing his words, and his books remain among my all-time favorites. The final book in the LIFEL1K3 series ranked among my most anticipated books of 2020. Except, while TRUEL1F3 is a perfectly satisfactory ending to a fantastic series, I did not love it like I thought I would.

In many ways, it is a typical novel by Mr. Kristoff. He is not afraid to jump right to the worst-case scenario in any scene and does so here many times. He does this to show his characters’ true motivations and personalities, for it is within conflict a person’s true nature comes to the fore. In that regard, the series morphs from being about Eve, as in books one and two, to being about Lemon Fresh as a sidekick turned heroine in her own right. Frankly, I like her character more anyway, so this was a welcome change.

Still, I didn’t LOVE TRUEL1F3. The ending was a bit too…pat…for my taste. While there are battles and apocalyptic explosions, it is not as dark and therefore as emotionally wrought as his other novels. In his adult novels, his characters fight for every ounce of happiness. That isn’t quite true in his standalone young adult work. Even with his collaborations, you know that he is not afraid to sacrifice a character for a storyline. I never felt that any of the characters were in danger, and therein lies my issue with this final book. It is almost as if Mr. Kristoff played things too safe. I missed that edge, that fear that your favorite character might die on any page, and while you would mourn, you know the story is stronger because of that death. There was none of that here.

That being said, any Jay Kristoff novel is better than most of the other stuff published these days. He is probably the only author these days willing to place his novel in the middle of a radiation zone with easy access to nuclear weapons. I also love his sly criticism of modern-day priorities where in his world, they have the ability to build AI with the ability to feel emotions and genetically modify any living thing on the planet but cannot do anything about cleaning up and repairing the environment. Maybe it isn’t such a departure for him after all.

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