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Being Illegitimate


Loved it! 😍

Teenage prodigy with a mob boss mentality controls his boarding school kingdom until the circumstances of his actions begin to catch up.

When reading the synopsis of this book, I was immediately attracted to it's young adult thriller-esque description. Thrillers, especially psychological thrillers, are positioned amongst my favourite genres so I'm particularly judgemental if one doesn't meet my standard. This book however, requires no ill judgement. In the opening chapter, we are immediately introduced to Lev in the way he wishes to be percieved, as an unforgiving mob boss who can ruin lives with a click of a button. Throughout the book, we continue to meet Lev in this unforgiving state, noting several times his unwillingness to flatter and charm people into giving him the information he needs, but rather wishing to incite violence or at least hint at it. Mary, Lev's younger and illegitmate sister, who he helped get into his exclusive boarding school, simply doesn't wish to be involved in her older brother's schemes. She just wants answers for the things she can't explain, why did her mother keep her to simply raise her on the streets? Why didn't their father want anything to do with her? Why did her mother kill herself? But she can't stay disconnected for long when everyone knows who you are and your brother is blackmailing them.

I love a bad boy character, as many of us do, and I think Searle presents an amazing example of one with Lev. He's a hard case, that's undeniable, and despite what Mary thinks; he isn't all that unemotional. Displaying a heart multiple times often in private when it stings the readers emotions the most. Lev in this book seemed indestructable and showed continual resilience despite literally being hunted and almost murdered at every turn. At 17, if someone had even shouted at me I probably would've cried nevermind deal with blackmail and a plot to kill.

This story had me gasping at every turn, what simply seemed like a revenge plot against Lev for his blackmailing ways turned deeper and darker than I ever thought it would go. This is more than Lev's actions catching up with him, it is a story of family, chosen family, love and yet, loss. A lot of loss for all characters, especially Mary. My one critique of this book is the almost insta-love connection between Mary and Oliver, which while it didn't distract from the story and the suspense, it definitely seemed a little odd at points. But overall, this book is incredibly enjoyable and it is definitely catered to a YA audience.

Trigger Warnings: Extreme Violence, Suicide, Mental Health Issues

Reviewed by

As a recent postgraduate, and a long term reader, I've recently started to take reviewing books more seriously, stretching it beyond a simple hobby I did occasionally on Goodreads. This year I have read over 80 books and plan to exceed 100 in the coming months. I review on all platforms.

About the author

Emily lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband and two children and the calico cat that came out of nowhere, but hangs out under the car, seeing all. view profile

Published on August 30, 2020

60000 words

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by