Review: Badger by C.M. McKenna

Posted January 5, 2016 by carolin in Book Reviews, Books / 0 Comments

Review: Badger by C.M. McKennaBadger by C.M. McKenna
Published by LLC on August 31st 2015
Genres: Abuse, Erotica, Romance
Purchase links: Amazon
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Source: Purchased

C.M. McKenna’s compelling voice has earned a devoted audience and multiple awards for her erotic fiction (as Cara McKenna.) Her page-turning literary debut, Badger, disturbs and titillates with the story of a recovering pill addict whose compulsive fascination with a Boston antihero spirals out of control.

Nearly twelve months sober, Adrian Birch feels like a nobody. But when her wrist is broken in a hit-and-run accident, she’s avenged by the Badger, a secretive street vigilante. Instantly obsessed, Adrian takes to staging suicide and constructing chance meetings to get his attention. Their resulting affair is harsh and needy, wrought with McKenna’s signature dark eroticism—until the connection gets out of hand and ignites the violent passions of the city.

Hailed for her “evocative,” “intense,” “deftly drawn,” and “engrossing” stories by reviewers at Publishers Weekly, USA Today, and Jezebel, McKenna now establishes herself as a rising star in neo-noir. Badger challenges the reader to imagine how an impulsive young man is killed, offering only the perspective of the fascinating and unreliable Adrian Birch.


— 5+ stars —

“Badger” is the story of Adrian Birch, a 27 year old recovering pill addict. One day, she gets hit by a car on the street and the driver doesn’t stop. There is nothing she can do – but suddenly, Chicago’s self proclaimed vigilante “Badger” races past her on his bicycle and smashes the car’s windshield, avenges the hit and run Adrian just endured for her. He is known for a long time as the one, who shoots people with his paintball-gun, who drop trash on the street, drive reckless or leave their dog’s poop behind. But nobody knows who he is. Adrian wants to thank her mysterious avenger and initiates a suicide attempt, since there’s obviously no other way to get to know where to find him – he’s disguised in a grey and black striped hoodie (just like a badger, the animal – hence the name), his head always covered by it’s hood. Badger reacts to her stupid act of trying to get his attention and soon, a shy sort of friendship starts to bloom between the two young people. Adrian’s hero is beyond saving though, and soon enough, their magnetic pull to each other turns into something toxic and venomous. Can a recovering Vicodin-addict and a mental ill person, who try to keep each other above water really save each other, or will both drown in their combined sea of issues?

Honestly, I have no friggin’ clue what to say about this book. There are a million words in my head right now, about how to describe this book. But none of those would really do it justice. When I first got the recommendation for it on Facebook, I didn’t pay it much mind because of the strange comic-art cover. But then I heard of it again and thought, I’d look it up after all. And thank god, I did. The blurb drew me in immediately and I knew I had to read the book. But I also knew from a few reviews I’ve read, that it would probably wreck me. So I awaited a good time and finally dove in. And OMG. From all the reviews, I’ve anticipated an even darker book… But it was really as good as I’d hoped it’d be. No, it was even better.

I’ll try to give my two thoughts about it, without spoiling too much – but I will possibly leave a hint about the story here and there, that’s just inevitable with how complex “Badger” is, the story as well as the male MC.

Well, I’ll start with the writing. Holy shitballz, I’ve only read a few books that I’d say in which the writing was perfect – but this was one of them! The author wrote with a sober straightforwardness, but was bordering on lyrical at the same time. Her strange mixture of writing had the effect to me, that every emotional punch was delivered hard and straight. And believe me, there were a lot of emotional punches. I felt, as if I was with Adrian and Badger most of the time, a silent observer in hiding. It sometimes even creeped me out, how real those characters were to me. So, I’d give the writing alone 5 stars, it was that perfect.

The ‘relationship’ between the two MC’s was not much of one, per se. I’m a romantic at heart, but my head is a cynical mofo, so I knew from the start that I’d most possibly be reading a book about two people who couldn’t have been more wrong for each other. Nevertheless, my romantic side was amazed, by how many emotions there were brewing under the surface after all, even despite Badger’s refusal to acknowledge any kind of emotion. Adrian was pretty forward about her feelings and I’d have loved to throttle Badger for the way he treated her. But in the end, I know it wasn’t his fault. For everyone, who’s heard about the book and for everyone who’s interested in reading it – there is no classical happy ending and I wouldn’t call this book a romance. In my humble opinion, it ended with a very tragic loss (about which I cried my eyes out, really – I full on sobbed), but with a very strong, redeemed and yes, happy female MC. And even though there was definitely kind of a love-story somewhere in all this mayhem, it was more of a tale about finding your peace with past actions and keeping your head high, believing in yourself, even if nobody else does. And ultimately, it was a book about humans – yes, we make faults, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes in full knowledge, but everyone is worth the same, despite our faults and flows.

In a few of the reviews I read before starting the book, I read about complaints regarding the brutal and repellent sex-scenes between the two damaged people. Whereas it was definitely not a normal and healthey sexual relationship, I wouldn’t call their actions disgusting or dark. This is not a dark romance, IMO. It’s just a story about a young man (Badger is 30 y/o), who has been dealt a few shitty hands in life, not just one – and who’s mind has then taken a big damage from those experiences in his childhood. It was painful to read about him struggling for some kind of normality with Adrian, even though that was a completely foreign concept for him. He only got aroused, when he was under a buckload of pain. I refuse to call him a masochist just now, as to not confuse anybody that this has anything to do with BDSM. It definitely hasn’t, the “things” happening between Adrian and Badger were a means to an end and Adrian was in no way aroused by them. They both ticked totally different and tried to meet somewhere in the middle to be able to have sex with each other. For me, it wasn’t too brutal. I understood the necessity of it and was totally ok with it. Just be aware, that the author described all those ‘not normal’ and for some brutal sex-scenes very explicit and detailed. And I mean VERY.

“Badger” contains child-abuse, as well as drug abuse – but only told in past experiences and not overly descriptive. The only scene that made me cringe or even cry was one, that had nothing to do with either of those issues.

As for the characters. Okay, well I could say so much about them. I loved both Adrian and Badger, despite their flaws, or maybe because of them. But I’d spoiler too much, going into detail about them here and now. Just so much: They are not your typical Jane and John Does, and when I said damaged a little while earlier, I meant the real kind of damaged, not the typical “alpha hero, I’ve been through a bit of shit in my life” damaged, but really fucked up-kind of damaged.

I guess, when I re-read my review now to check for typos, I didn’t make the book sound all that alluring to read – but I’m glad I gave it a chance and even though my heart broke for a short while, “Badger” will stay with me for a long time and now morphed into my favorites-shelf with a big bang and an even bigger smile on my face.

All in all, I rate “Badger” with 5+ stars and have no damn clue, if I’d recommend it to anyone. For me, it was a perfect, book-hangover-worthy read, but I can see why many people probably couldn’t stomach half of it. My advice: if you can handle a very real appearing story about very deep and scarring issues, give this masterpiece a try. Keep an open mind and don’t judge too early, all will be solved in the end. I’m right now so enamored with this book, that I’ll definitely check out the author’s other books.




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