Great Premise, But Lacked Atmosphere

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Overall I would say that I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me was a solid 3.5 of a read for me--I felt like it was well-written with a very interesting concept and some spooky moments, but it ultimately never really "clicked" for me in the way I wanted it to.

To start with strengths: I love that this work focuses on the dark underbelly of the ballet industry! I think that this creates a really interesting setting and lots of good details in just how demanding this environment is, like the physical strain of dancing or even how getting a major surgery is treated as a funeral--this creates a lush, cut-throat backdrop for the story, and makes Laure's struggle to succeed in this racist industry all the more compelling. I also found the premise of the deals and Elysium to be super unique. They felt reminiscent of demon deals, but with a unique setting and rules that made me interested enough to keep reading. I think Laure worked well as a protagonist; I really felt the challenges that she faces and was rooting for her to win, even as her actions became more dangerous and the stakes higher and higher. She just worked so hard and really gave it everything, so I wanted to see her win. Not to mention that it was nice to see her make real friends throughout the book! I wasn't particularly invested in the romance subplot. It wasn't bad, it just didn't really grab my attention. That being said, though, I do think that the power struggle happening within that romantic subplot was really interesting, and definitely made it feel fresh and new.

I think the main thing that kept this book for really being a huge win for me, despite the interesting setting and my enjoyment of Laure, was that it just didn't quite give me enough atmosphere. There's that really incredible setting of the ballet and its dark underbelly, and I think I just wanted to be more caught up in the spookiness surrounding it. There's some moments that achieved this, like some of the dances themselves, but it just never really went far enough for me. I think this made some of the horror aspects of this book land a little flat because of this, I just didn't feel the tension or buildup how I wanted. My other main problem (spoilers from this point out) was with Coralie as the main antagonist. I think that her motivations with feeling like Laure has abandoned her, and Laure's struggle to either save her or save herself at the end, just would've hit a lot harder if we'd actually gotten to see more of their friendship. This might just be in part because their friendship is so rooted in the ballet, and in competition, compared to the genuine friendships Laure forms later, but still--it was hard for me to be invested in their bond when I hardly saw any of it, or even Coralie as a character. There was just nothing there for me to be invested in, and it made some of the twists later feel a little shallow.

Still, I think this was a very solid YA horror! It had a really great concept and some very strong moments, along with an absolutely gorgeous cover. Even if this book didn't click for me, I don't doubt that it will for many, many people, and I think its criticisms of the ballet and narrative of Laure putting herself first is genuinely really powerful. Though I don't intend to read more in this specific series, I'll definitely keep an eye out for more of Jamison Shea's work!