When I picked Sainthood up, I wasn't expecting much. It was high school, it was juvenile, and it required a massive suspension of disbelief beyond what I'm usually capable of; that being said, this was a good series. I found myself immersed in the world, the characters, the general plot, and the steam. So despite this not being one of the best genres for me, I still enjoyed it.
Plot (four stars)
Forget that this is academy. Nothing happens at the academy--they're barely there. This is not an academy book. The main characters are just senior-aged high schoolers, so school is a part of their lives. This is a mafia, enemies-to-lovers romance. And those I like. Especially the enemies-to-lovers part; it creates so much delicious tension that always draws me in. Three junior-chapter gangsters. One resilient, hard-worn girl with shitty parents. This book centres around Harlow Westbrook, our main character. Her dad just died in a horrible car accident (literally the day the book starts), and Harlow throws all caution to the wind and winds up in an orgy with the Sainthood juniors (Caz, Theo, Saint, and Galen). This is pretty much the level this series stays at in terms of character development, steam, and plot. Which I enjoyed because, for once, I got what the author set out to give me. Drama.
Harlow ends up on a whirlwind rollercoaster as her life becomes entangled with the Sainthood even more than it already is, putting her life in grave danger. As this series goes on, Harlow manages to only become stronger, better focused, and somehow more emotional. The guys unlock that. The plot is full of twists and turns and cliffhangers and bomb-drop-worthy u-turns, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire way.
Characters (three stars)
Harlow: I'll admit, I don't like our main girl. There's nothing really wrong with her, but I've always found preachy, over-confident main characters ridiculous. If you're confident, you don't go around making speeches about it. You're just it. Confidence doesn't feel like anything--it's passive. And there was quite a lot of telling throughout the first book, where the author used the first-person present tense to tell us how badass she was without her actually acting badass. It takes a while for us to start seeing the badassery, but when we do, it gets kicked into high gear and it's AWESOME! I do, however, admire her resilience in the face of stupid levels of danger and life hurdles. She manages to overcome one them all, and I found that really inspiring.
Caz: The sweet, joking one of the group. He uses Urban Dictionary's word of the day as early in the day as he can as a personal competition, and he's always cracking dirty jokes. He's honestly refreshing in all of this. His violence feels like an act because he's naturally caring and sweet. He's always the one to think of the small things when it comes to Harlow, like running her a bath or making her a cup of tea.
Theo: The one who broke her heart. There's some pre-book drama involved in their relationship here, and it's adorable. It takes time for Harlow and Theo to overcome their differences and work together, but the moment they have their talk, everything changes. Theo is one of my favourite characters in this entire book, but then I'm a sucker for "coming out" story.
Galen and Saint: Cousins, best friends, and a pair of annoying assholes. They spend their time taunting Harlow, annoying her, and making her life generally more difficult; though, I wouldn't go so far as to call it bullying. It's more just pushing each other's buttons, and the sexual tension is there from the start. Saint is the ring leader. He's possessive, and it takes time for him to get onboard with the whole sharing aspect.
World (five stars)
We get a real, good hard look at the Sainthood mafia in this. Now, I'll be honest, it's all complete crap and not at all believable. This isn't how the real criminal world works, because if it were, you could just topple the criminal hierarchy and solve gun and drug crime overnight. Simple. But this takes your typical criminal hierarchy and applies some street violence, a sick and twisted psychopathic leader, and a complete absence of police. Giving you an awesomely built world. You really see how this works in this book, which I found utterly refreshing. Usually in these types of reads, you only see bits and pieces, and nothing ever makes sense, but Siobhan Davis really shows the entire Sainthood: good, bad, ugly, and psycho. This is a thoroughly built contemporary world, and for that, this gets a five stars for the world building. So often world building is ignored in a contemporary setting, and it's nice to, for once, not have that dampen and otherwise great read.
Writing (four stars)
Not sure how to rate the writing in this. It's clearly been edited, because it's super consistent and generally okay, but at the same time, there are consistent errors that have come from a misunderstanding regarding coordinating and subordinating conjunctions and how to use commas with them. All the commas before because and while drove me insane, especially in small, simple sentences where there's genuinely no justification for using them. So while the writing isn't riddled with errors and typos, it's not brilliantly edited either. But aside from grammar, the writing was good; a little told at times, but otherwise a nice snarky prose for a badass, snarky character. It worked for the book. And it didn't detract from my reading experience too much.
I know I've pointed out a few things I didn't like in this review, but this is a genuinely good book that I recommend for mafia lovers and/or for people who love dark high school reverse harem. I had a few issues with it personally, but the series was an enthralling read I've given an overall four stars to. Well pulled off, great world building, okay writing, and solid characters.