Review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

Posted April 20, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, New Adult, Reviews, Science Fiction / 68 Comments

Review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian
The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian
Series: Chaos Theory #1
Published by Penguin
Published on: March 18 2014
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
One StarHalf a Star
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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.


Here’s my rule about spoilers:

If it’s in the blurb, or if it’s in the first 5(ish)% of the book (and therefore available for download BEFORE you purchase the book), it’s not a spoiler.

And that’s my disclaimer.

Meet Evalyn Ibarra.

As The Wicked We Have Done begins, Evalyn is saying goodbye to her mother and 5 y.o. brother before being taken to the Compass Room (à la The Hunger Games). Evalyn lives in a future version of our world in which the scientists have created an arena, I mean testing ground, where violent criminals are monitored both visually and emotionally/hormonally (via neck implant), while being subjected to various reenactments of the crimes that put them there in the first place. All of this to determine their guilt, and all of this to keep the tax-payers from having to provide for the upkeep of inmates while they sit in prison and/or on death row.

B/c it would be so much cheaper to build several 8-miles-in-circumference testing zones, complete with hovering robot spheres capable of emitting enough radiation to EXPLODE a body (among other things, like morph into vines, ropes, chains, whatever is deemed necessary for the reenactment—mighty versatile, those spheres . . . ), not to mention pay all the high-salary scientists to “observe.”


And what did dear Evalyn do to wind up bound for the Compass Room (Compass! As in moral compass! I see what you did there . . . )? She participated in a school shooting that ended in the death of 56 professors (and students?).

Yes. She did.

Not a spoiler. I already told you my rules.

As soon as I learned this, I knew, I knew, that there was absolutely nothing that could rationalize away her part in the crime. I knew it. But I held out hope that I was wrong, that there was some clever twist that would make it all okay, that I didn’t have all the information . . .

Well, I didn’t have all the information, but guess what? Getting it didn’t change a damn thing.

BUT you’re supposed to think it does. Harian goes to great (and by “great” I mean “mediocre”) lengths to use a disconsolate Evalyn to elicit an emotional response. You’re supposed to be thinking to yourself, “She’s SO sorry! Poor girl! What pain she suffers! How could she possibly be responsible for this crime?” so that when the Big Reveal happens, you can say, “See I knew there was a reason!”


Even if you feel that Evalyn made the only decision she could given the circumstances, and that could be debated until the end of time, it doesn’t change the fact that she consciously chose to take a life. She pulled that trigger, she is responsible for that death, and no one will ever be able to convince me that she should get a get-out-of-jail-free card. Prisons are full-to-bursting of criminals who are sorry for what they’ve done. And yet, they’re still sitting there in prison.

Evalyn, sweetheart, you made your bed. Now lie in it.

Disregarding how tacky it is to suggest that a participant in a school shooting should be pardoned for their actions—I tried to tally-up how many teachers and students have been killed and wounded in school shootings in America, but lost track in the 100s (it was 323 in in the 15 years preceding 2007 according ABC news), I can, however, tell you that there were 44 more in the first six weeks of 2014 alone. This is not a thing of the past, and I find it to be incredibly insensitive to fictionalize this topic in any capacity, but especially in an attempt to make a sympathetic character out of the culprit. What’s next? Someone’s family is being held hostage by a terrorist organization, and that’s why they flew that airplane into that building? I felt bad for Mickey in Star Trek Into Darkness when the only way to save his daughter was to blow up that building. Doesn’t make it okay that he BLEW UP THAT BUILDING.

Right. So disregarding that, the book is still terrible. The situations the characters found themselves in, the dialogue, the relationships, ALL exaggerated and/or stock, ALL a complete waste of my time.

The Compass Room runs with groups of ten criminals at a time and has a 25% survival rate. Evalyn’s group is made up of the Angry Lesbian, the Pretty Little Thing that becomes smitten with the Angry Lesbian, the Teenage Geek Who Knows More Than You, the Savior, and the Savior’s Love Interest. There are also token Red Shirts like the Rapist and the Sociopath. The only atypical typecasting in this group is that Evalyn is the Savior and the big, strapping male is the Savior’s Love Interest, but even this is such an obvious and lazy switcheroo that I couldn’t appreciate it.

There are not one, but TWO cases of severe insta-love (yes, insta-love—Casey had issues with Evalyn for less than 24 hours before he began to change his tune, and that my friends, is insta-love), AND all of the melodramatics that go along with it. Dramatics like the fervent belief in the people surrounding you, even though you’ve only known them for two weeks (or less), and even though every single one of them is a murderer in some capacity.

*rolls eyes*

That’s it. I’m done.

I’m waffling between 1.5 and 2 stars b/c I can’t decide whether or not how quick a read this was should warrant an entire star. Yes, I found The Wicked We Have Done to be completely unbelievable and in poor taste, but it only took a few hours of my life vs several days, so that’s something. And, you know, every reader brings something different to the table. I’ve read several good reviews of this book by bloggers whose opinions I respect, so just b/c I hated it, doesn’t mean you will hate it. If you’re interested in NA Dystopia, then it might be the perfect book for you. And hey, forewarned is forearmed.

Jessica Signature

One StarHalf a Star

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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68 responses to “Review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

    • You know, I don’t even think I noticed that, LOL. But that’s pretty much spot-on. The only confusion concerning her guilt is whether or nor she was the orchestrator—but regardless of that, she did participate. Just blah.

  1. I love the Star Trek analogy and there’s nothing better than using a movie reference in a review. I’ve never heard of this book or even the author, so it’s safe to say, I trust your thoughts on the book and chances are I would have had similar issues with the story. And don’t even get me started on school shootings in the US or even basic gun control but I digress…brilliant review but I’m sorry it was a massive waste of time. Onto the next and I hope that one will rock your world my friend! 🙂

  2. This book would just make me angry and I completely agree with you that I feel like certain topics shouldn’t be fictionalized and there is no way I would have felt that her crime could be pardoned. Thanks for your honest review and saving me from getting ticked off.

    • I know you liked it, and you and Lexxie were both two of the people I was referring to when I said that other bloggers whose opinions I value did like this book. And yes, I definitely see how the Compass Room by itself could be fascinating. Even thinking about it right now, I can recognize what a cool concept it is. Unfortunately, I couldn’t just take the Compass Room and leave the rest. I know and have relationships with families who have been personally affected by school shootings, so I can’t be unbiased on this particular subject 🙁

  3. I’m with Kim, I enjoyed this as well. I totally get everything you say, and I don’t disagree with that, however, I was also fascinated with the compass room, the morality of it all, and thinking about how the penal system in many countries works right now.
    And while I also agree with you that Evalyn never actually did show much remorse for her crime, I guess in a twisted, sick way, I can get how she got manipulated into doing what she did.
    Great review, Jessica 🙂

    • Thanks, Lexxie! And yes, I completely agree that Evalyn was manipulated into the part she played. My issue was that it seemed to me that the author was suggesting that b/c of that manipulation and Evalyn’s obvious remorse, she shouldn’t face any consequences. And yes, thinking about the Compass Room by itself, I also agree that it’s a fascinating idea, but (for me) the coolness of Compass Room was overwhelmed by the hideousness of the situation. But obviously not everyone is going to react as negatively as I did, and I’m glad that you enjoyed it 🙂

  4. Oh goodness…that world-building definitely sounds bothering. 🙁 And the underdeveloped characters? No thanks! I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews for this one, but I think you’ve convinced me to skip this one! Thanks so much for sharing Jessica and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  5. bookwormbrandee  

    Goodness. I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you on any level, Jessica. I think maybe the reason Evalyn ended up in the Compass Room is maybe too relevant. It might give me pause too. And if the author can’t make you feel sympathetic to the MC, you can’t connect – and that makes for a bad read. I won this but haven’t read it yet. I’m kinda worried now. But I appreciate your honest review, Jessica.

    • I think you’re right. Once I knew why Evalyn was in her predicament, nothing else mattered, and I was that much more eager to see the other holes as well. I can totally see how someone who wasn’t as offended by the concept as I was, could still enjoy this book. And you’re welcome! Good luck, whatever you decide 😉

  6. Reading the blurb and your review, I get the feeling this book is trying WAY too hard to be controversial. Works for some, not for others, I guess, but I personally would have a hard time connecting to the main character as well.

    • EXACTLY. This chick was on a mission to create drama. And in my experience, when someone is deliberately going about trying to accomplish something like that, they are redundant. They can’t trust you to get whatever it is they’re trying to convey, so they tell you. Over and over again. I was so tired of hearing about what a terrible person Evalyn thought she was, and why she deserved to die (especially b/c I was immune to that manipulation), I was just OVER it.

  7. The publisher didn’t approve my request for this book but now I’m kind of glad they didn’t. I think I would dislike this for the same reason you did, the blurb sounds interesting but now that I know more details it does sound ridiculous. And I agree…why should the main character be given a pass for something that she actually did? She took a life. Several, from what I understand and she should take responsibility for it. Great review Jessica! I don’t think I’ll be reading this one..

    • Exactly. Even though Evalyn was manipulated into her participation, the only person whose actions she is responsible for is her own. So the basic premise destroyed any hope I had of enjoying the book, even though there were a couple of interesting ideas—in the face of my disgust with the overall situation, nothing else could break through.

    • Thanks, Sharon! And yes, I’m sure that if this wasn’t such a touchy subject for me, I would have been able to enjoy it too. The idea behind The Compass Room is very interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the execution of that idea.

  8. I’m so sorry, hon, that this didn’t blow you away like it happened with many others 🙁 I can see where it might anger you. Okay, so perhaps I will stay away from this :O It does sound so wtf and quite awful and I hate insta-love and there are two cases here? WHAT? Oh, no. I’m so sorry you hated this, but I completely understand 🙁 Thanks for your honest thoughts, Jessica!

    • Thanks, Siiri! And yes, there were many things that were objectionable to me in this book. BUT as you said, many other people liked it. I would give the sample chapters a try before totally writing it off 😉

  9. oh no, I’m sorry about this one… First of all I agree with you when it’s in the synopsis or when it’s in the first pages, it’s not a spoiler even if sometimes it sounds like that. Sometimes I even try to understand why they actually said some things in the synopsis but well it’s like that. I think I also agree with you about Evalyn, if she did it, she must assume that, or she didn’t have to try. But it’s sad that everything was amplified, it’s not really pleasant during a reading… I think I’ll pass this one.

    • I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t see shades of grey in WHY a crime was committed. I think that there is a vast difference between murdering someone in cold blood, and losing control of your car b/c you weren’t paying attention, and someone dying in the resulting crash. BUT, regardless of intent, there MUST be consequences. If you vehemently agree with that statement, then I would definitely recommend that you skip this one 😉

  10. I’m thinking I’m going to take a pass on this one Jessica! I would definitely need the best reason in the history of reasons to even begin to understand why Evalyn chose to participate in the shooting, and it sounds like we don’t even get one that comes close. The double instalove pretty much seals the deal, and I’m going to move on to other books without adding this to the list. Thanks for your thoughts! Oh, and massive bonus points for use of the word “codswallop”. YES:)

  11. bookaholiccat  

    School shootings are some of the most despicable acts and I really don’t want to read about an “innocent” that participated on a school shooting. Thank you for the warning, I’m sure going to skip this book.

  12. I’m sorry this one did not work for you on so many levels. I do like the sound of the compass room but I’m not sure about the rest. Hmmm, it seems as if the mystery behind the compass room is really the most fascinating aspect of the story, but not the excuse for Evalyn….Thanks for the honest review, Jessica 🙂

    • You’re welcome. And lots of readers don’t have as visceral a reaction to this situation as I did, and are able to enjoy the story based on the merits of the Compass Room. Everybody’s different 😉

  13. Oh wow, it just sounds poorly thought out and executed, even without the piece where you don’t feel sorry for the main character. Which is too bad when the premise sounds really cool. How does something like this get published by a big name publisher? Where’s the editor to tell the author hey this book is underwhelming go fix it? Great review!

    • Thanks, Julie! I don’t know where any of those people were b/c this book could have been amazing. If Evalyn had done something else (ANYTHING else) to wind-up in the Compass Room, if the characters were better developed, if there was a more believable reason for the Compass Room’s existence in the first place . . . as it was—NOPE.

  14. Oh, wow. I will be avoiding this like the plague. Sounds like between her not really having a reason or changing things to be a part of the shootings and the instalove I couldn’t get into this one.

  15. I’m surprised that you finished the book. I don’t think this one is for me. There are too many elements that would make me not want to finish it… no, not for me. Great review though!

  16. As soon as I saw the insta-love button up top I was already like *bail bail bail*
    This book sounds terrible! Especially all the stereotypical characters. Right, it’s time to kick it out of the TBR pile.

    Done. And good riddance.

  17. Faye M.  

    This is why this book has been in my Currently Reading shelf for more than a month now, and yet I haven’t read a single page. I just can’t get over the fact that she’s the killer and yet we’re supposed to feel for her and understand her and be all swoony with her lesbian romance. Ummmm… no. Also, the author has complained about reviewers “not being objective” in their reviews of her book on Twitter… that one put me off A LOT.

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • With the number of holes and ridiculous notions in this book, I’m not surprised to learn that the author one of those (you KNOW what kind 😉 ). And yeah, the only reason I finished it was b/c I was so outraged by the concept that I needed to finished it in order to review it properly. It would have been MUCH easier to just let this one go, but I NEEDED to review it, you know?

  18. Ouch, this is not what I was hoping for. It sounded like a really good read and that cover is kinda of hard to resist. I don’t like holes in books I’m reading and that insta-love is always a mood killer. So sorry this one disappointed you. Great review, Jessica 🙂

  19. I laughed aloud no less than three times reading this review. Thanks SO much for reading this so we don’t have to!

  20. Michele

    Sorry to hear this one was a disappointment for you. With the school shooting, the insta-love, and a character like Evalyn — I can see why this was a reading fail. This concept just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Thank you for the informative review, Jessica!