Mar 8 2014 3:15pm

First Look: Sarah Harian’s The Wicked We Have Done (March 18, 2014)

The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah HarianSarah Harian
The Wicked We Have Done (A Chaos Theory Novel)
InterMix / March 18, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian's The Wicked We Have Done is an exciting and thought provoking debut. The book centers on ten young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five who have all been convicted of the crime of murder. Instead of a life sentence, they are given a choice to go the Compass Room for thirty days for judgment. If they survive, they can go free.

Fifteen years ago, government scientists manufactured an accurate test for morality—an obstacle course, where the simulations within proved whether a candidate was good or evil. It was named a Compass Room.

For ten years, the CR was tested over and over. Criminals were place inside for a month to see if the CR correctly identified the true threats to humanity.

Other than the fact that they’re built in the middle of experimental wilderness, the public knows very little about Compass Rooms. They know that, through technology, brain waves of the candidates are measured during a simulation. Reactions are evaluated, and like a needle on a compass, the test determines the true morality—the true internal clockwork—of the criminal. If necessary, an execution takes place.

An average of two-point-five inmates survive each CR. Not the best odds.

The main character of the story is Evalyn Ibarra, who was convicted of being a co-conspirator in a mass slaughter of the faculty at her college, leaving fifty-six dead. Evalyn is the only conspirator not to commit suicide. As the story unfolds, we learn more of what leads up to that day in Evalyn’s life and we find it hard to equate the girl we meet with the crazed conspirator who would mindlessly kill at random.

“That is your instinct. To help people no matter the risk it is to you. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since the lake, when you wanted to find food for me and Jace because you were so sure that you were going to die here. So tell my, Evalyn, how does someone with that kind of instinct premeditate a mass murder?”

My hand stall, fingers tightening around cotton fabric.

“Because I’m a diagnosed psychopath, Casey, and that’s what psychopaths do.”

“Wrong,” he says brazenly, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. “If you’ve proven one thing to me it’s that you aren’t egocentric. That is what makes a psychopath so damn predictable.”

A chuckle bubbles from my mouth. “So what? You think I didn’t do it—that I didn’t commit my crime?”

“I don’t know.”

Although Evalyn’s guilt or innocence is a question we wrestle with throughout the story, there are many others that will leave you questioning where your own moral compass falls.

There are those going to the CR for judgment whose danger to society is not truly in doubt: Gordon who tortured, mutilated and murdered a still unknown amount of victims, and Erity who was convicted of sacrificing four girls in the name of witchcraft.

Yet there are others who have been convicted of murder whose danger to society at large is simply questionable. Tanner is convicted of pushing a bully off a cliff. Casey buried alive his abusive father. Valerie killed the men who raped her sister. Jacinda killed a family during a car-crash-suicide attempt. Do these kids deserve a death penalty? If given the opportunity, would they kill again?

Are these tests essentially some form of punishment? It’s fair that each one of us is put through this torture. Even those of us who are morally good at heart need to be reminded that what we’ve done is still, at its core, unforgivable. The only people who could ever forgive me completely are those here, in the Compass Room, because they are asking for the same forgiveness.

While awaiting their judgment, these kids come to rely upon each other for survival. They are also being subjected to their own personal demons so that the computers can monitor and determine whether or not these individuals deserve to be put to death. The duress of the situation brings our characters closer to each other and as each is subjected to testing, they are finding themselves being drawn into each other’s simulations. In protecting their new friends, are they risking their own chance to survive?

“You made it worse. He was going to kill me. It was going to be over. Now I have to sit here and wait to die.”

“You don’t know that.”

He chuckles darkly and sits. “After what I just did, you really think they are going to let me live? I proved them right. I’d kill him again if I had the chance.” His head falls back. “Are you listening? You can finish me off now!”

I flinch as his voice echoes through the woods. “I helped. At least you don’t have to wait to die all alone.”

His expression breaks in defeat. “Why—why would you do that?”

I open my mouth, but I can’t find a way to explain that watching his father beat him was worse than watching what happened to Erity. “You’re alive. He isn’t. If they decide to kill you, then fine, but it won’t be because I sat back and did nothing.”

While the computers judge these prisoners, we also find ourselves measuring the two-point-five percent survival rate and working through own moral dilemmas to determine whose crimes deserve the final punishment or who can earn our forgiveness?

Learn more or order a copy of The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian, out March 18, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & Noble



Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Post a comment