Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy Review + Giveaway! #CFMonth13

Posted May 16, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 3 Comments

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy
Published by Simon Pulse
Publish Date: May 7, 2013
288 Pages
Source: Edelweiss
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / IndieBound

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers. -(from Goodreads) 

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy 

My Thoughts: Two things: 1) This book is written by an author that I love and 2) This author wrote the heck out of this book. 

The first thing you need to know is this:
Dee has committed a crime. 
Gunshots were fired. 
Nikki will do anything, say anything to protect him. 
Nikki didn’t realize when she went to that house with Dee that something bad would happen, but when she heard gunshots and saw him running toward the car, things kind of changed for her. Nikki and Dee take a few minutes to try and come up with a story that sounds about right, to make sure they’re on the same page – and then Dee tells Nikki not to contact him. 

Nikki feels very unsure about what has happened. Heck, she doesn’t even know what just happened. She just heard gunshots and that can never be good. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
Nikki lives with her best friend Bird and Bird’s daughter. 
Living with Bird has been like a dream for Nikki, since her mom Cherry is nearly constantly high on some drug or another and hands her off to men in exchange for a good time. Living with Bird feels safe, and Nikki can help with the cooking and cleaning in exchange for staying there. It isn’t a perfect situation, since Bird is a little wary of Dee, but it’s Nikki’s best option.

When the bad thing happens and Nikki comes home, she’s in a daze. She wants to be able to talk to Bird about it – she’s her best friend, after all – but she can’t tell Dee’s secret. Besides, Bird probably wouldn’t understand. 

When the police start coming around asking questions – first to Nikki’s workplace – Nikki freaks out a little bit. THEN, THEN they start to question Bird and things take a turn. Nikki still can’t tell Bird what happened but they did use her car, which was seen by witnesses, and they’re telling police that they hung out in Bird’s house – this makes police want to question Bird further along with members of Bird’s family, and even search Bird’s car. 

Bird isn’t happy. She doesn’t want any part of whatever these two have going on. She makes Nikki leave and go back home to her mother, to the drugs, the parties, the men. The men, the men. 

The third thing you need to know is this:

While all of this is going on, Nikki holds onto her love for Dee. 
But Dee maintains that he doesn’t want to be contacted. 
Over and over and over, Nikki feels that if she can just talk to Dee, just see him for a few minutes, everything will be okay and she will feel better and things will make sense. Maybe Dee will tell her what happened, why things are happening this way, what is going on. But every time she desperately texts Dee, it goes unanswered until she gets a rude and ugly response from Dee basically telling her to leave him alone. 

Nikki eventually goes to prison. She confesses in such a way as to keep Bird from getting into any more trouble, but to name herself as an accessory to murder. 


Okay, so, WOW. You guys, after falling so hard and fast in love with this book, I trust Terra Elan McVoy completely with my heart and I love what she’s done with it again this time. It’s completely true that Criminal is a totally different direction than McVoy’s other work, but MAN OH MAN is it good. When the book opens, the crime has already been committed and this is the story of the how things sometimes unwind in the aftermath. 

What we have here is a great story, yes, but more than that, Criminal is an amazing look at characterization – exactly how far Nikki will go to protect someone she loves, even when that love is a totally unhealthy, completely obsessed kind of love. When you put the complete picture together and look at Nikki as a person, it’s not hard to see why she loves Dee so much (even though my gut is asking me over and over WHY she doesn’t just leave him alone) – she is desperate for attention in the worst way, and in some ways Dee makes her feel complete. But his love is incomplete and not pure and really not that great – Nikki just cannot see it that way. (How often do we see this type of love/relationship happen in real life and in fiction?) So when Dee goes and commits murder, Nikki immediately and without question wants to keep him safe, out of jail, free from charges. Without even thinking of herself or what might possibly be the right thing, she is constantly thinking of what she’ll say to the police, to others to keep him out of prison. So, so unhealthy is her love for this man! It’s so unhealthy and so bad that it’s really hard to make a connection with Nikki and kind of hard to like her for a large part of this book. But stick with her…

Nikki has a better relationship with her best friend, Bird. When Bird allows Nikki into her home, that is such a blessing for Nikki – it gets her away from all of the bad behaviors of her mother, Cherry, and brings her into a somewhat more stable environment. At Bird’s place, there is some food, there is some laughter, there is some work to do, and there is some semblance of structure. When Nikki decides over and over that she cannot trust Bird with this secret, she is really just choosing Dee over Bird – this makes Bird feel upset, frustrated, angry. Then when the police show up and start to question Bird about things she has no idea about, things that could associate her with a crime she didn’t commit – well, let’s just say that doesn’t go over well. Losing her place at Bird’s home should be a wake-up call for Nikki, and as a reader I held out hope that it would be – but Nikki still clings desperately to Dee. And his love. And his acceptance. Which never comes.  

It’s true that Nikki was an accessory to a crime, yes. She finally owns up to some stuff and we finally see that Nikki can make some changes. She finally realizes some things about how Dee has treated her and how Bird has treated her and perhaps-maybe how her priorities have been screwed up in a big way. When Nikki ends up in prison, it isn’t pretty, but maybe it isn’t the worst thing for her? 

Terra Elan McVoy really took a risk with Criminal and man, I just love that. Readers that are fans of her previous work will be surprised when they read this one because it is so different, and yet what it does is give us more from her to love. This book isn’t the easiest to read – totally issues-contemporary – but good gracious, it is good. McVoy is so very able to get into the head of Nikki and spread her emotions and thoughts and feelings across the page – it is amazing. I felt things when I read this book – anger, disappointment, shock, rage, resignation, and other things – and this is what I’m learning to expect from this author. BUT Nikki makes changes and while you have to hang on a little while for her to get there, it’s so good when it finally happens. 

I recommend Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy to fans of YA contemporary/realistic fiction with great characterization and those who love issues contemporaries. I think this book also could be considered New Adult.

Find Terra Elan McVoy:  Facebook / Twitter / Website
Find Criminal:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / IndieBound


Criminal will appeal to fans of:

YA/New Adult Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Romance: Already established. No triangle. 
Great characterization. 

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy
is currently available for purchase. 


And now for the Giveaway!

Author Terra Elan McVoy is offering
 to five winners!

( US Only, please. )

Don’t forget to visit the the other participating blogs 
for more opportunities to win! 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


3 responses to “Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy Review + Giveaway! #CFMonth13


    I am SO glad that you felt so strongly about CRIMINAL. I feel like this year more than last year I am latching onto unique, risky writing and I am so proud of Terra for pouring her heart and soul into this book. It is such a winner, and I could see it as a great character study for a class. Nikki's situation is so complex, and so are her relationships. (Everyone has great names too, I love that.)

    I just got a hardcover in the mail the other day, and I cannot wait to read it again and I hope that I can convince my husband to check it out as well. SO SO SO GOOD. I wish that more YA authors would take a chance like this one bc the results are so good.

  2. You totally had me interested in this book when you mentioned that it was "an amazing look at characterization." I'm totally down for that kind of read! I think the cover is really eye-catching, too, so that's a plus! After scrolling down and seeing that Estelle also loved this book – obviously means I need to check it out!

  3. I find that I tend to enjoy issues-driven contemporaries more than just plain contemporaries, if that makes any sense. If I have to read about modern day in our modern world, I kind of want something at least a little different from life as I experience it. With that being said, I think Criminal does sound pretty interesting. I like the idea that it takes an already unhealthy relationship to the extreme through an act of violence – and a criminal act, at that. Sounds just like a really fascinating character study!

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