The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

Posted April 21, 2014 by Lucy D in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

The Wicked We Have Done (Chaos Theory, #1)

We’re talking with author Sarah Harian. Check out our interview and say Hello.

ORDER A COPY: The Wicked We Have Done: A Chaos Theory Novel

Publisher: Intermix
Publishing Date: March 18, 2014
ebook: 272 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

In Sarah Harian’s debut novel, The Wicked We Have Done, we are introduced to a dystopian society where justice is meted out in The Compass Room.

Fifteen years ago, government scientists manufactured an accurate test for morality—an obstacle course, where the simulations within proved whether a candidate was good or evil. It was named a Compass Room.

For ten years, the CR was tested over and over. Criminals were place inside for a month to see if the CR correctly identified the true threats to humanity.

Other than the fact that they’re built in the middle of experimental wilderness, the public knows very little about Compass Rooms. They know that, through technology, brain waves of the candidates are measured during a simulation. Reactions are evaluated, and like a needle on a compass, the test determines the true morality—the true internal clockwork—of the criminal. If necessary, an execution takes place.

An average of two-point-five inmates survive each CR. Not the best odds.

This is the story of ten individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who have all been convicted of murder, and their 30 day stay in the Compass Room for judgment.

The main character is Evalyn Ibarra who has been convicted of murder and terrorism and has chosen to face her judgment in the Compass Room.   As their time in the Compass Room goes by, we are given peeks into the last few weeks in Evelyn’s life leading up to the fateful day at college which lead to the death of 56 members of the faculty of her college, and as the story progresses, we find it hard to equate the ring leader of a terrorist organization with the woman we are coming to know in the Compass Room but Evalyn believes in her own guilt.

When this story begins, we are  introduced to the other nine individuals who will be judged along with Evelyn.   The purpose of the Compass Room is to determine not only guilt for the crime these individuals have been convicted of but more to the point, what danger that person is to society at large.  This leaves us facing our own moral dilemma.  There are several individuals who leave us with no doubt as to their danger to the world at large, but there are others who have been convicted of murder whose danger to society at large is simply questionable.  Tanner is convicted of pushing a bully off a cliff.  Casey buried alive his abusive father.  Valerie killed the men who raped her sister.  Jacinda killed a family during a drunken car crash/suicide attempt.   Do these kids deserve a death penalty?  If given the opportunity, would they kill again?

While everyone waits for the Compass Room to decide their fates, these kids will come to rely upon each other for survival in the wilderness to find shelter and food and comfort.  They have no idea that the bonds they are forging with each other will create a new danger as they begin to be drawn into each other’s trials.  In protecting their new friends, are they risking their own survival?

Just as we are ready to make our own determination as to who should survive and who should be judged, chaos rules the Compass Room when a computer glitch removes the fail safes and suddenly tests and results are no longer the determining factor of who will live and who will die.

I found this book to be both entertaining and thought provoking. I have read some declarations claiming it is a combination of the Hunger Games and The Running Man but I disagree. I see similarities, but both of those stories are contests where you could win your freedom. In this, you will be judged for your crimes and for your ability to kill again, and running the fastest or being the smartest is not going to save you.

Since this is not a competition between the individuals, they are able to work together to help each other survive in the wilderness where food, shelter and safety are scarce.   As they bond, we get to learn more about them and the crimes they have been convicted of.

Although several of the individuals have been convicted of some very serious murders and you have no doubt that they are dangerous, most of the kids we are introduced to will leave you questioning whether they should die for their actions. Even our main character Evalyn, she believes she needs to face the judgment of the Compass Room, but the girl we meet doesn’t appear to be a cold-blooded killer so we need to wait for her whole backstory to unfold before we can make a clear judgment as to who she really is.

It really makes you question yourself because someone is dead because of their actions, but does that necessarily require a death penalty for each of these children. For example, the youngest member is Tanner who was convicted of pushing his bully off a cliff and you could see a scrawny, nerdy kid pushing the big kid off the cliff as an accident. But for example, there would be a huge difference of whether the bully followed Tanner to the fishing hole to torment him or did Tanner follow the bully there with the intent to shove him off the cliff?  This little bit of information turns it from an accident to premeditated intent.   So they are subjected to their demons over and over again to determine their intent, their feelings on the matter, and would they do anything differently if given the chance.   As we relive  their crimes and learn more,  we have to decide who we might judge and who we might let go free.

In the beginning of the story, on the train ride in, we are given the background of each of the individuals being sent to the Compass Room. I would suggest making a list so you can keep straight all the individuals and their crime. I had my list on the counter and came home to a note from my husband that said “You need to get new friends.” 🙂

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Scene:

In this scene, it is Casey who is being tested by his demon — the abusive father who he killed:

He looks like Casey. Older. Less meat on his bones. So sallow he balances on the edge of translucent. Like he’s climbed from the grave Casey dug him.

“What do you want?” Casey mutters. Quietly. The tearing of tissue paper in the middle of a storm.

“To bring you to hell with me.”

Casey shoves me.

Pain rips through my scalp as branches grasp my hair. I land on my ass in the mess of dead underbrush, twigs clawing at me. I try to bounce back up, try to grab on to anything, but the earth won’t release me.

Gnarled branches stretch and curl over my lap, creating a restraint that pins me down.

Casey gapes at me, horrified by what’s happening. He isn’t paying attention to the demon of a man who raises the shovel.

I shriek Casey’s name. The shovel lands across his shoulders.

He falls to his knees, and his father swings, metal head connecting with Casey’s back.

Casey crumples to the ground.

“You little fucker. Never appreciated me.”

Casey rolls over as the shovel drops a third time, slamming into his torso. He relaxes, head rolling toward me.

He’s giving up.

He can’t give up.

“Fight!” I scream.

Vines squeeze my waist, holding me down. The knife. The one I used to cut up the blanket. It’s in my sweatshirt pocket.

I squirm until I can reach it, digging into my clothes and wiggling it free. I saw through the vine as fast as I can until tufts of foam distract me.

The drum of metal on bone fills the air. Tears streak through the dirt on Casey’s cheeks.

Beneath the foam hides a skeleton of wires. Delicate—fibrous. The moment I slice through the twisted thread of them, the vine loosens, and I’m free.

“Never respected the roof over your head. Everything I provided. Just wanted more until nothing was enough, ain’t that right?”

I untangle myself, foliage scraping my cheeks as I crawl out of the brush. Casey’s father takes a step to his left, his back to me, boots dangerously close to Casey’s neck. “Spent too much of my time trying to protect that neck of yours. Shoulda brought you out back and shot you like a bad dog when I had the chance.”

He raises the shovel, this time, aiming for Casey’s head. Aiming to crush.

“Better late than never.”

I don’t think. Or maybe I think to decide that I don’t care. I charge, sinking the knife into Casey’s father’s back.

He drops his shovel, but he doesn’t turn into smoke, or wail and sink back into the ground. I don’t slice through him as if he were a projection. An illusion. I drive that knife right through real muscle—through meat—wedging the blade between two ribs.

Warm blood seeps out from around the handle.

He arches his back and drops to his knees. The bastard tries to pick up the shovel, like he isn’t registering that he’s been incapacitated. I snatch the shovel up before he can do so. Casey’s father is dead, and this—this situation—is impossible.

I allow that logic to drive me.

Splinters from the handle embed into my flesh as I swing with all my might. The shovel ricochets off Casey’s father’s skull and he falls forward, face sinking into the mud. The knife juts from his back.

As soon as I’m still, Casey rolls over, lifting himself up onto shaking arms, and crawls to his father.

The handle of the knife rises and falls with every breath. Up and down. Up and down. I set my own in sync with Casey’s dad’s. In and out. Up and down.

Casey balances himself on his knees and grasps the handle of the knife with both hands, yanking it out. He lets it fall, this time in a different place. His right kidney.

Again, his lower spine.

His neck.

His shoulder blade.

Casey hacks and hacks, blood splattering across his face and clothes as he rips the knife away. He doesn’t stop, not when his dad has to be dead—again—his back nothing more than ripped denim and mangled pockets of swelling blood.

I kneel, grasping on to Casey’s spattered arm. I say his name over and over, prying his fingers away until the knife drops onto the red-coated earth.

We are statues around the corpse.

What have I done?

I’ve cycled, that’s what. I’ve killed to protect. But that doesn’t make it right. I’ve proven that I’m willing to murder again.

They’re going to kill me now. Any moment. I can feel my own heart thrum violently. It knows that this is its last chance to make noise.

I will simply stop existing.

My breath rattles through the air. Nothing happens.

Casey takes his hand back, crawls into the brush I was tangled in, and throws up. His back arches like an animal as he spits bile from his mouth.

“You made it worse. He was going to kill me. It was going to be over. Now I have to sit here and wait to die.”

“You don’t know that.”

He chuckles darkly and sits. “After what I just did, you really think they are going to let me live? I proved them right. I’d kill him again if I had the chance.” His head falls back. “Are you listening? You can finish me off now!”

I flinch as his voice echoes through the woods.

“I helped. At least you don’t have to wait to die all alone.”

His expression breaks in defeat. “Why—why would you do that?”

I open my mouth, but I can’t find a way to explain that watching his father beat him was worse than watching what happened to Erity. “You’re alive. He isn’t. If they decide to kill you, then fine, but it won’t be because I sat back and did nothing.”

“That’s a stupid answer.”

I rest my palm on his chest. He hisses at the pressure.

“You lost your mind,” I say.

His eyes drift to the mangled corpse. “He does that to me.”

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