David Cristofano's first book The Girl She Used to Be, so I was eager to read his next book The Exceptions. Both books require some stretch of the imagination, but both are very engaging and entertaining. You can read The Exceptions without having read the first book, but I don't recommended you do that. You have a deeper understanding of the characters and their personalities if you've read the first book.
The facts are still the same. Melody Grace McCartney is still running from her past. One day, a six-year-old Melody and her parents left their New Jersey
home for a day out in Manhattan. While on that journey, they have the
misfortune of witnessing a murder at the hands of mafia boss Tony
Bovaro. From that day on the lives of the McCartney family are forever
changed. They are forced into the Witness Protection Program. As a
teenager, the Bovaro family catches up with Melody’s parents and kills
them. Orphaned Melody is now without her anchors – her parents.
Jonathan Bovaro wants to be Melody's anchor. He wasn't much older than Melody at the time of the murder. While the adults in his family saw Melody and her family as threats, Jonathan saw her as a beautiful girl. She was innocent. Her life was worth saving. She deserved a chance to grow up. Jonathan never understood why his family couldn't see Melody the way he did.
The Girl She Used to Be to be is told entirely from Melody's perspective. This is where The Exceptions differs from the first book, it's narrated entirely by Jonathan. You get more insight into his personality. Despite being the son of a mafia boss, Jonathan grew up with a sense of family, except their Sunday dinners were celebrating the elimination of a traitor instead of good grades on a report card. Nothing is normal is about the Bovaro clan.
Violence and intimidation are the norm for the Bovaros, and Jonathan learned from the best. But he wants to be more than a product of his upbringing. He wants a normal life. He has to have something for himself, something that is separate from the Bovaro clan. He turns his passion for cooking into a successful career as a restaurant owner, but the sins of his family will always haunt him. Whenever he's pushed to the limit, Jonathan reverts to what he knows. Like his family, money, violence, and intimidation are his best weapons. But when it comes to Melody, Jonathan feels nothing but compassion and love. Over the years, Jonathan has watched her from afar, slowly falling in love with her. He can see a lot of her in himself. Melody desperately wants her life back. She could have been something before the Bovaros entered her life. If Jonathan can break away from the family, then he can truly become the person he was meant to be.
Every year Melody continues to live, Jonathan reassures his family that he will get it done. Although deep down he has no intention of harming Melody. He wants to free her from the eternal misery of the Witness Protection Program. After two books, I still believe his plan to free her was naive. In the eyes of his family, Melody is a threat and that won't change until her death. Sometimes it felt like Jonathan was obsessing over Melody too much. In his mind, he is the only one who can save her. Only he has her best interests at heart, not the feds. He loves her so much it hurts to be away from her. His passion for Melody was a little too sappy for my taste. He obsesses over kissing her and touching her. Pages and pages are devoted to his obsessive thoughts over Melody. At 465 pages, The Exceptions was a little long for my taste. The first book was so effective in getting to the point quickly. But for readers who loved The Girl She Used to Be, The Exceptions is worth reading.
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review.