Aaaaaaand Rachel Van Dyken has done it again. Please bear with me for this review because I still can’t seem to get my thoughts around it. It was so freakin amazing that I don’t know where to start. Rachel Van Dyken has once again left me speechless, breathless, and utterly defenseless.
More than 5 out of 5 mindblowing stars! I swear. It's THAT good. You wouldn't want to miss this one!
Everyone has a secret...
Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He's been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him--obsess over him--driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice.
But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever.
Pretending isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn't just be his life at risk--but hers.
Saylor doesn't hate men.
He's a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn't afraid of flunking, she'd be long gone. She hates that she's attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he's attracted to her--and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn't form coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn't who he says he is, and he's hiding something big.
What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever--the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he's been craving for the past four years?
Everyone has a secret...What's yours?
TOXIC was unbelievably intense and bone-deep emotional much like Ruin, but at the same time, it still has that distinct flavor that is all its own. TOXIC spins off from the story of RUIN. Where RUIN tells Wes and Kiersten’s story (read my review HERE), TOXIC zooms in on one of the supporting characters in the book: Gabe Hyde. Many series nowadays go by this trend but what I appreciate the most about Rachel Van Dyken’s writing is that she wrote Gabe’s tale not as an afterthought to the RUIN storyline but as something that is entirely different and unique in and of itself. Gabe totally owned TOXIC and I savored reading every single word.
Right from the very beginning, I knew that there had to be something more to Gabe than the player we meet in RUIN. That’s why I was so excited to discover that the second book of the series is going to be about Gabe. But none of my expectations even came close to the devastating truth about Gabe Hyde. I’m going to try REALLY hard to get through this review without revealing anything major. I’d hate to anything for you, guys.
First off, let me just say that I love love love Gabe. I’ve always had a thing for hot, badass guys with a chip on their shoulder. And Gabe? *swoon* He fit the bill to a T.
The Gabe we met in RUIN is just a tiny sliver into who Gabe Hyde really is (or isn’t as the case may be). For the past four years, he has been trying to desperately escape the tragic past that haunted his every waking moment. And it all started with a decision that destroyed everything. At seventeen, Gabe led a very charmed life: a successful career, more money that he can spend, and... the love of his life, the girl that he knows would one day become his wife. But one careless mistake and *poof*. Everything. Gone.
From the depths of his shattered soul, Gabe believes that he has no one to blame but himself. And now, after years of hiding who he truly is, every single thing that Gabe believed in is challenged when he meets Saylor. And because it’s his life we’re talking about, the lies he has been weaving for years are coming apart at the seams. Gabe’s time is almost up and everything he feared is finally happening.
It was surprising to see and feel this much emotion and depth from Gabe Hyde. I was utterly blown away by the magnitude of his grief and desperation. I mean, THIS Gabe Hyde was a far cry from the picture I had in my mind of how Gabe should be. I thought of him as Lisa’s funny, tatted, badass cousin. It was a welcome surprise to find out that there’s more to this bad boy than meets the eye. Since the reason for his torment was not revealed until more than halfway through the whole thing, it made me wonder what could have happened to this beautiful man to make him the way he is. And that revelation? Yep. Destroyed me. To pieces.
And into the picture comes, Saylor (such a cute name, BTW). And, just for kicks, I’m going to tell you that she is NOT the girl I was talking about before (i.e. love-of-Gabe’s-life girl). Which confused me at first because the chemistry between Gabe and Saylor was terrifyingly electric. God, I can’t wrap my head around how hot playing the piano could possibly be! Edward Cullen playing Bella’s Lullaby has NOTHING on Gabe Hyde’s private music tutorial! I’m like: Hey, Gabe! You taking any new students? WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?
Gabe and Saylor can’t keep their hands off each other but at the same time, they’re also always at each other’s throats. They didn’t fall madly in love with each other at first sight. Sure, the attraction is there but attraction does not always equate to love. I was actually laughing at their bickering! Purple Ponies. Turtles. Hah! Well, one second I was laughing, the next I was tearing up. I guess that’s all Rachel Van Dyken right there!
Another thing that I absolutely adored about TOXIC is that it is a Knight-In-Shining-Armor kind of story. But what makes it stand out from all the rest is that, in this one, the girl saves the guy. Not the other way around.
I am obsessed with alpha-male characters but it was really something else to read about the guy being the more vulnerable one. I’m not saying that Gabe is weak. Not at all. But in his vulnerability, we see not only his strength but also Saylor’s. It made the story more heartfelt and gut-wrenching as we witness how Gabe struggled to stay afloat amidst all the shit in his life when all he wanted to do was sink.
I noticed that with RUIN, Rachel Van Dyken delivered the heartcrushing blow (no pun intended) almost with one fell swoop. With TOXIC, readers are left in a constant state of heartbreak for Gabe Hyde all throughout the book. It was a tiny punch to the gut here, a little stab to the heart there… multiplied a million times over. Each page broke down my defenses and by the time it got to the good part, I was emotional and vulnerable and gutted. TOXIC strips you raw little by little and it’s such an exquisite kind of pain.
Rachel Van Dyken has once again proved to me how talented and versatile she is as a writer. TOXIC showcased her usual wit and her outstanding ability to make your heart clench in heartache, your gut bust in laughter, and blow your mind in the process. No biggie.
The writing was effortlessly flawless and the pacing added beautifully to the build-up and made the climax even more explosive. She kept me in breathless anticipation. As I was reading and swiping page after page, I kept thinking “Is shit about to go down now? … What about now?... Holy freakin sdfgfyscnasbduiywq?!?!”
It was such a ride… a passionate, painful, and emotional one, made all the more beautiful by the inspired characters. One thing I can say about Rachel Van Dyken: she doesn’t do anything half-assed. TOXIC is carefully thought up and complex. Its story is an intricate web of secrets and heartache and laughter… and everything else in between! And just like any old web, once you’re in, you can never get out. Once I’ve started TOXIC, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a gripping and undeniably captivating tale that did not let go of me until the very last page. And every tear shed was SO. DAMN. WORTH. IT.
Toxic is a standalone novel with a complete story. No cliffhangers and, yes, HEA included! You can read it on its own or with the other books. I highly recommend that you read all of them though to get a better feel for the characters.