Toxic by Lydia Kang is one of those books that I really wish I’d enjoyed, but just didn’t. While the writing and the plot were excellent, the majority of the characters were annoying and underdeveloped. While they all had intricate and moving back stories and were certainly diverse, their own development throughout the course of the novel was sorely lacking. I think the problem I had, mainly, with Toxic is that I was just so bored reading it.
Tack on the fact that the romance was massively cheesy and between a pair of characters who subscribed to cliches and a rather ridiculous insta-love and I had even more trouble engaging myself in their story. Which, frankly, is a real shame because the world and the plot were utterly brilliant. But it seems it was just overshadowed by really dull and sometimes irritating main characters. I simply did not care about what happened to anyone.
At the end of the day, the most interesting characters throughout the whole novel were Gammand and Cyclo. The ship, Cyclo was really the front runner of the story. She was the most important by far and it was fascinating to learn about her, how she lived, and the things that motivated her. The horror aspect was blended brilliantly with her character and I think shows how brilliant the writing of this book truly is. My appreciation of Gammand comes primarily from his backstory which I found deeply tragic, moving, and terrible all at once. He was the only character–barring Cyclo, the ship–that I really ever felt a connection with emotionally.
Hana and Fenn were just irritating, to put it bluntly. They each had little growth, showed a frustrating immaturity, and became so attached to each other so quickly in the most ridiculous of ways. I couldn’t buy their relationship from his end and resultingly found him incredibly unrealistic as a character. Hana, at least, made sense and was therefore at least vaguely forgivable. There needs to be a level of realism in a romantic situation and considering how over the top Hana and Fenn’s romance was written as, it was difficult to hold onto that.
Then there was the pacing, spurned by the dull characters to further turn the novel into a rather sluggish read. I had such a hard time getting through this book even with the promise from other reviewers that it picks up, which fortunately it does about 60% of the way through. The final portion of the novel was much easier to read, but still not enough to fully save the novel from the mistakes made prior.
I did truly enjoy the revelations that arrive in the end, though I thought the bit about Hana’s mother that was revealed last was kind of ridiculous. I think I would have much preferred if their rescue had been different and a certain character’s initial plot had not been revealed to be something different. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t delve any further.
All in all, Toxic could have been amazing, but instead I found it simply okay.