Book Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Books

Published: 4th August 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 8/10


’17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever. Or thereabouts.After a mugging on the streets of South London goes horribly wrong and exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust – her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them. Trying to uncover the truth of why her mother was killed, and the real remit of The Unit, Lila becomes a pawn in a dangerous game. Struggling to keep her secrets in a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone – there are others out there just like her – people with special powers – and her mother’s killer is one of them…’

I’ve been very lucky lately in that I’ve read several very good books in a row recently, which doesn’t happen often. I bought Hunting Lila purely because I hadn’t read a single negative review. Even the Goodreads ratings are overwhelming positive, which is pretty rare. After reading it for myself, I’m not at all surprised it’s so popular, Hunting Lila is a fun, flirty read and looks like it could become a great series. 

Hunting Lila is a paranormal book, but it is so far removed from what I, and I think a lot of people, have come to think of as typical paranormal YA (Twilight, Hush Hush, Fallen etc). There’s no brooding vampires or depressed angels, no destined, forbidden romance and, best of all, no major amounts of angst.

Instead, Hunting Lila has a bit of an X-Men vibe going on. Lila is telekinetic and has no idea how to control her powers. Frightened of her own abilities and that she might hurt someone, Lila flees to her brother’s where she hopes to outrun her problems and her old life. Far from being safe, however, it seems Lila might have just run to the one place where she is in the most danger and soon she doesn’t know who she can trust.

Alderson’s narrative flows nicely and makes for a gripping read. I wasn’t thrilled with the first third of the book, despite a great opening chapter, but the mystery surrounding Lila’s abilities had me hooked enough that I wanted to know more. Once the action kicks in, I wasn’t able to put Hunting Lila down.

It took me a long time to warm up to Lila. I’m afraid I found her swooning over Alex over-the-top, cloying and embarrassing. I was cringing every time she was around the poor guy. Lila is an immature protagonist (not necessarily a criticism) and while it’s probably a rather (depressingly), accurate portrayal of a young, naive girl head over heels in love, her borderline obsessiveness really put me off. The first part of Hunting Lila is pretty much a long internal monologue about how ‘hot’ Alex and it isn’t until the actually story line picks up that this book comes into its own.

Lila is often childish and a little spoilt. I didn’t dislike her, I think she could potentially become a strong female character, but I did wish she had more personality beyond her infatuation for her brother’s best friend. The whole ‘I’ll pretend to trip so he’ll catch me’ mentality didn’t endear me to her. She makes some pretty stupid decisions but I did enjoy a couple of her scenes right towards the end of the book. I’m hoping she’ll grow up and gain some perspective and maturity in the coming books and really come into her own as she learns to control her power.

The romance in this book is very ‘swoonworthy’. Alderson definitely knows how to please her readers! Naturally, I liked Alex. I’m sure almost every female reader liked Alex. He is ridiculously attractive, a marine and still a sweetie. I could have done without the overblown macho protectiveness towards Lila at times (I don’t think Alex and Jake do Lila any favors by treating her so much like a child), but I’m sure a lot of readers will love it. And even though I found Lila’s crush exasperating, it’s completely understandable why she is so besotted. I probably would be too. Once it evened out some, I liked the romance in Hunting Lila far more.

Hunting Lila is well thought-out, revealing just enough to keep the reader guessing, and a side from the slightly shaky start that focuses too much on developing the romance, the pacing is spot on. There are several unexpected plot twists (with a particularly great one right at the end), setting up an exciting story-line for the next book.

I would have liked to have seen more scenes between Lila and her brother but I thought the moments we did get between them were perfect, particularly Jack’s reaction to Lila’s secret. I enjoyed the close friendship between Alex and Jack as well and wouldn’t mind their relationship being built on and explored further in the second book.

Alderson really knows how to write some engaging characters and I was actually very upset over the fate of one whom I had literally just met a few pages previously. I’m looking forward to getting to know Demos and Suki and the others a lot better in Losing Lila. It’s going to be interesting watching certain characters forced to work together despite their mutual dislike and distrust and I actually can’t wait to see where Alderson takes us next.

Hunting Lila needed to get to the main action of the story a bit quicker and I would have liked the crazy teenager crush toned down (there’s only so many times you can repeatedly hear how ‘hot’ a character is before you’ve reached your limit) but Alderson makes up for it with a fast-paced, addictive story, with an intense romance and some potentially fantastic characters. Lila’s attitude may have been a little annoying, coming from a slightly older reader’s perspective, but I do think she was a pretty realistic teenager and I’m really looking forward to seeing her character progression throughout the series. This is a thrilling debut and gets a high rating out of me despite the odd complaint, simply because I just enjoyed it so damn much.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

  1. Oh, you’ve definitely made sure this book captures my interest! Even though I’ve seen this one around, I’ve never thought it to be anything for me, but now I’m not so sure. o: It sounds really interesting and I love super powers… I’ll most definitely have to take a closer look! A wonderful review. 🙂

  2. GREAT review! That’s so hard isn’t it, when a main character is “too” accurate – in a way that makes you squirm for how unsophisticated/immature/naive they are. Probably the only thing that’s worse is a character who is the complete opposite – a little too Mary-Sue’ish perfect, you know what I mean?

    Is Alex a real he-man alpha male? That makes me cringe too, but I know some readers can’t get enough of that sort of stuff.

    I’ll definitely have to add this to my list of things to read, it sounds really interesting.

  3. I had the same issue with Lila’s character. Her crush on Alex was crazy intense and it was almost too much to stomach. Like you, though, I realized how accurate it was to a lot of real life teenage infatuation — I definitely had those moments myself, lol. Still, I was thankful when the story shifted focus to the larger storyline while still maintaining those bits of sweetness between Alex and Lila. I really enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to the sequel!

  4. Hahaa.. even some characters got annoyed with her ‘childiness’ and her crush on Alex.
    She seemed so young despite her age, but I didn’t enjoy her story. Usually this kind of obsessing over a guy drives me crazy and makes me dislike a book, but somehow I liked this one… maybe I was in a really good mood, i don’t know, but I found it really cute ;))

  5. very good book I couldn’t put it down and because i was readingit on holiday i got such a bad sun burn from doing so and was in agony for days but i have to say it was worth it and i am desparate to read the sequel

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