Book Review: The Notorious Pagan Jones
By: Nina Berry
Narrated By: Elizabeth Evans
Published By: Audible Studios (Audio), Harlequin Teen (Print)
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Audio Length: 5 hours, 42 minutes
Source: Kindly Provided by Audible
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
Pagan Jones is a disgraced starlet who finds herself behind bars after killing her father and sister in a drunk driving accident. Pagan knows that alcohol is to blame for the downward spiral of her life and she wants to be better once she's served her time. While she's counting down the days until her parole, she plots ways to escape with her best friend, Mercedes. An escape plan gone awry lands Mercedes in the hospital and Pagan in the frying pan. To her astonishment, the handsome stranger, Devin Black, shows up with a deal that seems to good to be true. Pagan is free, but only if she agrees to fly with Devin to Berlin to shoot a movie. Pagan can't believe her luck, but she is suspicious of Devin from the beginning.
After a little inner turmoil, Pagan jumps at the chance for freedom and the adventures begin. Pagan will find herself in a divided city as the Cold War rages and the Berlin Wall is erected. Being the center of attention isn't always a good thing and Pagan quickly realizes that the reason behind her being in Berlin is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. The novel is full of Cold War intrigue, hollywood glitz, and good old fashioned espionage.
The historical detail in this one was my favorite aspect of the novel. I have always been fascinated by the city of Berlin. As a kid, I remember watching the news as the wall came down in 1989. I was too young to truly understand the historical significance of that moment, but I knew it was important. As a historian, I have spent a vast amount of time studying WWII, but for some reason I never delved deeply into the Cold War era. This novel makes me want to learn more about this time period and its impact on the city of Berlin. I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been to live in the city with all the change and conflict swirling. Eventually I will make it to Germany and see Berlin for myself, but seeing it though Pagan's eyes was enough to tide me over for now. It was apparent that Berry did her research; the setting and historical components feel authentic.
I do have to mention that Pagan is not an easy girl to like at first. I felt like she was vapid and shallow. She seemed to whine more about her predicament than truly feel remorse. I also had trouble feeling sorry for her when she knew she had a drinking problem and still climbed behind the wheel the night her family was killed. By the end, I do feel like Pagan grew on me and I began to see her strengths rather than focusing on her dysfunctions. She has a bit of badass lurking under the pretty, tragic exterior. Her transformation wouldn't have dazzled me as much if she hadn't started at the very bottom, but it is something to consider when her whining and behavior in the beginning grates on your nerves.
On the other hand, I loved Devin and Thomas from the first moment they appeared. Devin is the perfect sort of bad boy - he oozes intrigue and danger. Thomas is the opposite - he's the picture of good guy. Both of them make Pagan's time in Berlin more interesting, but don't fear, Pagan does not find herself in the middle of a dreaded love triangle.
I highly recommend this one for historical fiction fans or those who are looking for a little danger and adventure in their next read.
The audio was well done and the narrator did a beautiful job bringing the story to life. If you enjoy audiobooks and find reading time slim, I'd grab the audio version of this one.
One Last Gripe: Some things didn't seem plausible. For example, how would Devin not think to triple check the rooms for Pagan before he was taking a super private call from his boss.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The historical components and watching the culture/political clash unfold
First Sentence: Time in solitary goes by with unbearable slowness when you've killed every member of your family.
Favorite Character: Thomas
Least Favorite Character: Nicky
Pagan Jones went from America's sweetheart to fallen angel in one fateful night in 1960: the night a car accident killed her whole family. Pagan was behind the wheel and driving drunk. Nine months later, she's stuck in the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by her guilt—not to mention the sadistic Miss Edwards, who takes special delight in humiliating the once-great Pagan Jones.
But all of that is about to change. Pagan's old agent shows up with a mysterious studio executive, Devin Black, and an offer. Pagan will be released from juvenile detention if she accepts a juicy role in a comedy directed by award-winning director Bennie Wexler. The shoot starts in West Berlin in just three days. If Pagan's going to do it, she has to decide fast—and she has to agree to a court-appointed "guardian," the handsome yet infuriating Devin, who's too young, too smooth, too sophisticated to be some studio flack.
The offer's too good to be true, Berlin's in turmoil and Devin Black knows way too much about her—there's definitely something fishy going on. But if anyone can take on a divided city, a scheming guardian and the criticism of a world that once adored her, it's the notorious Pagan Jones. What could go wrong?