Review: Badger by C. M. McKenna


Title: Badger
Author: C. M. McKenna
Genre: Dark, erotic, fiction
Release Date: 31 Aug 2015

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My rating: 5 Stars


Nearly twelve months sober, Adrian Birch feels like a nobody. But when her wrist is broken in a hit-and-run accident, she’s avenged by the Badger, a secretive street vigilante. Instantly obsessed, Adrian takes to staging suicide and constructing chance meetings to get his attention. Their resulting affair is harsh and needy, wrought with McKenna’s signature dark eroticism—until the connection gets out of hand and ignites the violent passions of the city.

Hailed for her “evocative,” “intense,” “deftly drawn,” and “engrossing” stories by reviewers at Publishers Weekly, USA Today, and Jezebel, McKenna now establishes herself as a rising star in neo-noir. Badgerchallenges the reader to imagine how an impulsive young man is killed, offering only the perspective of the fascinating and unreliable Adrian Birch.
This is the first book by cara McKenan under her new pen name and it's very different and at the same time still similar to her previous erotic romance. 


I generally try to be constructive in my reviews but this is one of the rare ones when it's just a jumble of thoughts and personal reactions to the story.

It's an emotionally intense story, very dark and disturbing and it took a lot of courage for me to read it, yet was totally worth it. I strongly urge everyone to give it a try, though be warned, this story shows some of the the ugliest sides of life with brutal honesty.

I have a hard time defining the genre of this book - it's not a romance, though it's a story about love (and the lack of it). It's a contemporary tale of darkness and self-discovery, a story of two people coming together briefly and changing each others' lives forever.

The story is told from Adrian's POV and I found her voice deeply engaging and easy to connect with - she is dealing with the consequences of a pill addiction - trying to (re)build her life, to find purpose and meaning.

Now, what can I say about Badger, he is unlike any other character I've ever read. My heart broke for him, I was literally in tears by the end of the book. He is a vigilante but he is no hero, let alone a romantic one, yet the ending of the story (and his life) was a moment of profound emotion and feeling for me.

Ms McKenna plays and subverts the very foundations of romance (what we see as romantic, heroic, what is means to love, to care, to feel connection and empathy), yet it's a story about love. It's brutal and painful, and truly disgusting at times but so is life and especially the life of these characters.

The story doesn't have a happy ending in the sense of Adrian and Badger coming together and overcoming their issues with the sheer power of true love. It's not one of those type of story. It's a real one, where Adrian learns to be herself, to love herself and to be strong and independent the hard way and I think Badger got to experience love and affection in his own way before leaving a world he didn't fit it. It's the only way their story could end, yet it left me completely devastated. I have this weird association with the Sons of Anarchy TV show - a sense of helplessness, of no other choice possible, of death being the only option. 

Abuse is often present in romance, it's treated in different ways but I haven't read anything like the way it was presented here and I doubt I ever will.

The romantic in me struggled with the idea that there are people who are broken beyond repair, I want (naively, probably) to believe that everyone can be saved, that sufferings and hurts can be made manageable, that life (and love and happiness) is possible with them remaining part of us but not destroying us completely. I know it's more of a wishful thinking on my part than a real possibility, yet Badger's story hurt, hurt because it can happen and it does happen way too often in real life .

I have to admit Badger's death made me convinced that he was capable of feelings, of love in his own fucked-up way. There was no place for him in Adrian's life or in anyone else's life but the book left me with a vaguely optimistic feelings that things will be all right.

Ms McKenna's writing is superb as usual, engaging, raw, very uncompromising and honest. This is a bold, unconventional story about finding your way, about abuse, about love! A recommended read, not for the faint of heart.

Purchase links: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Brain Mills Press

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