Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Suspense
Content Rating: Older Teen (minor sensuality, violence and minor disturbing images, grief)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find It On: Goodreads
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
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In a Sentence: An engrossing, surreal tale about grief, love, family, and finding the strength to stand on your own.
I'm fascinated by characters with unusual diseases and disorders (no cancer though thank you), so this was a must-read just for the autoimmune aspect alone. That it was also about a crime family, and a fairytale retelling? Be still my heart.
I was immediately engaged from Page 1 by Penelope's life and environment. Even though she was stuck at home with little to do for most of the first half of the book I was reluctant to put it down, and by the end I would've been up half the night finishing it if my health had permitted. This didn't feel like a particularly fast read, though - the writing was easy and engaging, but the content was weighty with well-crafted scenes, intrigue, the fascinating premise, Penelope's grief, and just the right amount of detail.
This is a story of "you don't know what you have until it's gone" mixed with "you can't truly know someone, no matter how long you've known them." Sheltered because of her condition by a loving family, Penelope dreamed of nothing but escape - until her life of privilege and protection was ripped away and she found herself alone to fend for herself. She understandably struggled at first, but slowly discovered a lot more strength in herself then she could've ever imagined - that her condition didn't have to be the end of the world; that she could have a life, and live it. She pushed and broke her boundaries, and although I don't have a sickness anywhere near as bad as hers, I could relate and found her perseverance inspiring.
The setting was for the most part realistic, but there were some occasionally disorienting surreal aspects. The romance was definitely of the fairytale variety, although she was no damsel-in-distress to his save-the-day prince - just the opposite, in fact. The true romantic interest wasn't introduced until over halfway through the book, which came rather out of the blue for me, but the romance lightened the otherwise grief-heavy story and gave hope to Penny and her future.
Conclusion: An intense and thoroughly engaging story that I recommend for those who love fairytale romances and/or crime family dramas. Looking forward to the second book in the Once Upon a Crime Family series next year!
For Fans Of: fairytale romances, crime family dramas, unusual illnesses