Now, as my own body decides whether to live or die, I replay my entire life over and over in my mind. No longer do I want it to end, something has changed in me. Somehow, through all of this, I’ve found a will to go on, even if it’s in darkness. For the first time since I’ve been alive, I want to live.
Gideon says my scars will fade with time, but they don’t bother me. As if their absence would change what happened. They're a badge of honor, reminding me what I went through, how brave I was, and that I made it out. That I can heal. If anything, these scars remind me every day that I’m still alive, and that things can change.
And they will.
My name is Grace Anne Vincent. I took the world, the people in it, for granted. I didn’t realize how precious my life was until someone turned off the lights, stripped it away from me. Until the men with needles came. They stole it all, leaving nothing but monsters, darkness, and death in their wake.
But I’m getting stronger every day. And though Gideon has his dark side, he’s growing stronger, too. We’ll make it together. We’ll create our own light, even if it’s hidden in the darkness.
Something out there beckons me, a desperate cry of a siren from the wreckage. It tells me to survive, to have hope. To love. To make things right again.
And I will.
***WARNING: This novel contains graphic violence, substance abuse, and graphic sexual content. This novel is intended for audiences 18+***
"The only time you can be brave is when you're scared. You told me that, remember, Phelia?" (Zelle, 145).
Willows in the End is a hardcore post-apocalyptic novel following Grace as she navigates the world after a mandatory 'anti aggression' shot called mindset turns everyone over the age of 21 into vicious, flesh eating, undead bodies.
The book starts off with a typical day in Ophelia(Grace)'s life; school, drugs and worship. We get a glimpse of exactly what Ophelia experiences in her day to day, including her past.
This novel is extremely graphic, including sexual violence, abuse, an extreme amount of drugs, and lots of sex. As hefty as the story is with this type of content, I was still able to focus on the main story line and appreciate what was being written.
I will be honest, I was quite thrown off with the main character, Ophelia(Grace). The amount of drugs being taken by her and the choices that she was making sent me in a spiral of anger and resentment. What kind of message was she sending not only to the people around her, but to the children she would encounter? I then made the realization that if a character was making me feel this strongly, it's because she was written RIGHT. The fact that Ophelia's actions were able to make me feel means she was a fantastic 3 dimensional character, and I truly believed all of her actions, truly felt them as opposed to reading them.
The other characters were also well made, especially Evie. She is an influential teen, a true testament to how easy it is for a teenager to be convinced into doing something.
Characters like Gideon and Logan were great additions to the story as well, creating an interesting dynamic and showing where Grace's morals and values lied. I felt as though a lot of the characters were there not only of their own accord, but helped a lot in developing Grace's character.
The theme that I got from this story is that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Grace(Ophelia) struggled with her past, and eventually came to the realization that the bad things are what made her strong. This is such a powerful message, especially evoked through a teenager. There was also a message evoked through Grace's character: the message that life is not easy by any means.
That being said, Grace's character (and many throughout the story) send the message that it's okay to cover up your pain with alcohol and drugs. I feel like this would be something very damaging for a teenager to read, as it sets a bad precedent, and teens (like myself) are very impressionable.
The story was absolutely gripping. There are breaks throughout the novel to help with pacing, and that makes the long story bearable. As with her other novels, Rozelle did an amazing job with pacing and giving each and every event its moment.
Something I noticed throughout the novel were little honorable mentions - odes if you will - to Rozelle's previous novel series, The Treemakers. Characters that seemed similar to the ones from that series, smells that were familiar, etc. I thought that was a nice easter egg for her YA fans to enjoy.
This is the first 18+ novel I read, and I will say that I quite enjoyed it. The graphic parts bring out the real world into view, and I think those are things that are important to talk about. I think it added to the story, making it even more realistic and bringing real issues into view.
While this novel had its ups and downs, it kept me enthralled from start to finish, and I am truly invested in Grace's fate. Rozelle did a wonderful job with her NA debut. This novel has an amazing story and I look forward to delving into the next novel, Ravens in the End. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
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Rozelle’s writing roots sprouted with poetry and prose in countless journals in her early years, continuing through her tumultuous teenage years, and well into her turbulent young adult life. Though her younger self dreamed of scribing non-fiction and poetry someday, when she discovered the magic in creating fiction she never looked back. Overcoming countless obstacles of her own, the wisdom gained along her personal path through healing breathes life into her beautifully dark, yet hopeful tales of triumph. Filled with an array of emotional triggers, not many topics are off limits in her works. Rozelle’s exceptional storytelling dives deep into the survival and growth journeys of diverse, broken characters and unlikely heroes. Authentic, gritty, intricate, and wildly imaginative, her stories also offer hope—a light in the dark—as her characters discover their own inner strengths and worth in the midst of debilitating adversity.
Though her wanderlust calls her to a nomadic life of traveling the world in planes, trains, ships, and RVs, Christina happily resides in a small town in Texas, USA, with her four wonderful children, three rescue kitties, and a rescue puppy, where she’s blessed to be able to do what she loves every day.