We’ve gone on adventures with the one and only Lexy Cooper before on this blog; and let me tell you, after what felt like weeks and weeks of bargain bin Kindle crap, Ms. Cooper was the breath of fresh air I so desperately needed. There’s never a dull moment when Lexy is involved, and somehow Pwned feels even more fast-paced than its predecessor, Schooled. I finished the book in less than three days, and reading it felt a lot like guzzling a tall glass of water in the middle of a desert.
I remember my experience with Schooled being largely of the “Wow, did that really just happen!?” persuasion. For one thing, it’s rare to find mystery novels these days that aren’t either Way Too Serious or come off like bizarre fever dreams full of kittens and knitting. For another, Lexy has about a thousand times more personal agency than most female protagonists… in any genre. Sometimes Schooled made me a bit uncomfortable, but not because of poor writing.
Pwned, however, felt much more familiar, and not just because I’ve hung out with Lexy before. Despite its breakneck pace, it felt a lot more…relaxed somehow. Like the characters, author, and the reader were all finding their groove and there wasn’t so much friction anymore. It was nice, and I can already see the beginnings of a lot of character development for Lexy.
(Speaking of which: Can I just take a moment to say how rare and precious it is when authors allow the protagonists of their series to actually, y’know, evolve? It’s frustrating how rare that is.)
The best and most prominent thing about Pwned is that it was fun. It was a nice, relaxing vacation from plots and characters that take themselves too seriously, and from authors who think the only way to push a boundary is to be gross and “edgy”. The mystery was sufficiently mysterious, and it took me until about 72% completion before I figured out Whodunnit. (And I was right) While it was a little frustrating to watch all of the characters continue focusing on the wrong Whodunnit, that’s par for the course with any mystery you solve before the book is ready to let you in on the secret.
Funnily enough, I had a very strange realization while reading Pwned. I really don’t like any of the characters. At all. I am disappointed with how they treat each other; I don’t like how they live their lives; I don’t like their opinions or politics or taste in lovers. If these were people I knew in real life, they’d be Facebook friends that I would throw a “Like” to every now and then but mostly I’d just hide their status updates. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve known a few folks in real life that have been like a few of the characters in Lexy’s world, and let’s just say that their self-destructive tendencies made them very difficult to know.
And yet. I still want to read about them. I still enjoy the books in this series, and I still have fun following their adventures. This is not something that happens to me, ever. If I don’t like the characters, or can’t connect with the emotionally, then I put the book down. But Charter has tapped into some kind of special magic, because I still want to read more Lexy Cooper books, even though Lexy and everyone surrounding her just…don’t click with me. I’m genuinely in awe. I have incredible respect for an author who can A) make characters real enough that I have these feelings in the first place, and B) writes well enough that I’m still interested in these folks even though they are all kind of jerks.
There’s also the distinct dangling of a carrot in this series, the carrot that says “These people are going to grow”, and I want to grab that carrot, folks. I really do.
If you are looking for a fun, sexy adventure full of curse-words, too-short skirts and MUUUURDERRRR, look no further than Lexy Cooper. Highly recommended!