Excellent Books from 2014 That Every YA Fan Should Read, Part 4

The Book of Ivy is a new YA dystopian read that grips you from the very beginning and takes you on an emotional journey of lies, love, and self-discovery. Everyone should read it!

This is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year!

THE BOOK OF IVY is the first of a two-part series that follows the deeply rooted rivalry of the Westfalls and the Lattimers in their battle for power. After a nuclear war leaves the nation in shambles, both sides differ on how to pick up the pieces and begin again. The Lattimers eventually win out and become the new rulers of the reborn nation, which leaves a bitter relationship between the families. Five decades later, that rivalry is still going strong and we are introduced to the descendants of the feuding families — Ivy Westfall and Bishop Lattimer. Both of which are engaged to the other to be married. And I’ll leave it at that.

“Trust no one” is a common looming thought throughout the book, for the reader and for Ivy. As I was reading, I wasn’t quite sure which end was up at times, which I LOVED. I thought Engel was genius in her approach to the progression of the plot. It’s very easy to give the readers everything up front and just let them be all-knowing as we read about the character discovering what we already know. Engel didn’t do that. The reader finds out as the characters find out.

The concept of THE BOOK OF IVY isn’t the most original idea, I did see elements of the story that reminded me of other books, but that isn’t really relevant. Engel wove a GREAT young adult dystopian tale that I, quite frankly, think needed to be introduced to the YA world. Ivy is such a strong female lead. Her stubbornness is quite endearing and not once does she fall to the trope of being a “weak female in need of rescuing”. Her character didn’t feel overdone or disingenuous. Ivy was an extremely likable girl.

Bishop’s character, as the lead male in the book, was probably my favorite type of lead to read about. The quiet and gentle warrior. Bishop was a wonderful reminder that not ALL lead males need to be obnoxiously dominant and overwhelming. He was NO pushover by any means, in fact, his quiet nature could be quite lethal, if need be. But he was a nice breath of fresh air in that you were peeling the onion to get to his true self.

The secondary characters, from Ivy’s sister and father to Bishop’s parents, were SO good! Each character played an important role in the progression of the plot and in the development of both Ivy and Bishop’s characters through the book. The secondary characters didn’t come off as filler or unnecessary. They were needed each and every time they were on the page. I can’t stop singing Engel’s praises because of how well she made sure these characters intertwined.

Overall, this book was absolutely GREAT. I couldn’t recommend it more!


I had a chance to actually ask Amy Engel some questions about The Book of Ivy, and I thought I’d share some of her answers with you!

Christina Marie: Young female characters can often times be portrayed as weak and dependent. Always reliant upon the male character. Ivy Westfall isn’t like that at all. She’s a head and heart strong teenage girl. How important was it for you to have a strong female that was not only stubborn and strong-willed but also still vulnerable?

It was vital for me to have Ivy be both strong and vulnerable, stubborn and yet still somewhat anxious to please. Nuanced characters are important to me. I like exploring all the various facets of personality. I wanted Ivy to be strong in that she didn’t need a boy to “complete” her or to save her. But I wanted her vulnerable as well. She isn’t a superhero; she isn’t invincible. She struggles to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, who to trust and who to love. She has to fight through a lot to find her own place in the world and really discover who she is, deep down. I wanted her to grow and change throughout the book. The fact that readers are recognizing both her strength and her vulnerability is so rewarding for me.

Christina Marie: Bishop’s character is very reminiscent of a quiet, gentle warrior. He’s not overtly cocky or overconfident. He keeps his thoughts and feelings close to the vest, but he is fiercely loyal and protective of those he cares about. Was there any one person or persons that you drew inspiration for his personality? And why did you make him that way?

Oh, I love this question! I didn’t base Bishop on anyone I know. But his personality was very deliberate on my part and I love your description of him as a “quiet, gentle warrior.” I think that describes him just about perfectly. I knew from the start that Bishop couldn’t be a jerk. He couldn’t be cocky or a “bad boy.” If he was any of those things from the start, Ivy’s heart would have hardened against him immediately. He would have proven all her father’s claims to be true and I don’t think Ivy would have given him a second chance to change her mind. 

So having Bishop be the “bad boy with the heart of gold” wouldn’t work for this story. He had to be kind; he had to be someone who turned Ivy’s set views upside down almost from the start. And I wanted his personality to play off of Ivy’s. She is headstrong, even after her family has tried to subdue that part of her. She has a temper. Her mouth sometimes gets ahead of her brain. I wanted Bishop to be a counterpoint for those character traits. He’s calm. He’s patient. He doesn’t get ruffled when she lashes out. He allows Ivy to be Ivy, which is something she’s never experienced before. But Bishop isn’t weak or a pushover. He has a real core of steel, which Ivy respects.

Christina Marie: While this is definitely a dystopian book, do you feel that in some ways, it can connect to readers on a realistic level? How and why?

Yes, I definitely think IVY can connect to readers on a realistic level, or at least I hope it can. I wanted to put Ivy in an extreme situation, one that heightened the stakes for all the characters, and a dystopian setting definitely accomplished that. But I also think many of the themes are universal: How much do our families influence us? What do we owe to the people we love? How do we find our own voice? How do we balance individual freedom against the greater good? And, of course, those feelings of first love, of finding the person who “fits” us in a way no one else has before.

This book really made me fall in love with dystopian fiction again. The characters were lovable and real, the plot was very interesting and the cliffhanger at the end? Not cool, Engel. Not cool. Kidding. I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the sequel and conclusion next November.

I can’t recommend this book enough!


Read the Day 3 Recommendation – Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho.
Read the Day 2 Recommendation – Red Rising by Pierce Brown.
Read the Day 1 Recommendation – Open Road Summer by Emory Lord.