Entice - Carrie Jones Is saving Nick really worth the deaths of 2+ characters and the complete abandonment of plot?

NOTE: I received an ARC via Amazon's Vine Program.

Last time we were in Bedford, Maine, Zara had turned pixie to attempt to go to Valhalla and save Nick. Oh, and attend the high school dance. “Entice” picks up immediately—and I mean immediately—after “Captivate”. Zara, Issie, Devyn, and Cassidy head to the dance, where they fend off some evil pixies. From there, it is off on the chase for the mysterious Valhalla. The team follows lots of clues in their attempt to save Nick. Meanwhile, pixie attacks increase and more young Befordians go missing. Can Zara find Nick in time?

I Liked:
One of the first things I noticed when I started reading “Entice” was that the writing style had greatly improved from “Captivate”, which was particularly amazing as I had an ARC of “Entice”. Gone (for the most part) was the silly, juvenile sentence structure, the overly simplistic writing, and the lack of descriptions. I actually got a better idea of what Astley looked like, what vehicle Issie drove, what color Issie's hair is (red!! Finally!) and what the surroundings were.
Astley continues to be an intriguing character even if a tragic event in his past is presented in a hokey manner.
This book has a lot of character deaths. One particular death, while unwanted, was well written with good reactions from all our major characters. It also hit all the right notes and left me wanting to cry.
Jones doesn't have our heroine cop out of tough life decisions. Zara turns pixie and must face that fact that if or when she meets up with Nick again, he won't love her. Plus, her own mother has begun to hate Zara for being a pixie. Too many young adult novels cop out of such repercussions, making the ending feel as if out of a Disney movie. Not Jones.
The last 40 or so pages are particularly whirlwind as Zara finally makes her way to Valhalla.

I Didn't Like:
I almost don't know where to begin.
Let's start with the writing tone. “Need” was dark and ominous, almost more horror than urban fantasy, something I really liked. “Captivate” was more generic urban fantasy with most of the freaky, paranoia gone. “Entice” continues this trend. The tone is what made the book stand out, that creepy “Look over your shoulder” feeling. Now, it's been replaced with Generic Teenaged Urban Fantasy. If I wanted that, I would read the bajillion other pixie books out there (such as “Wicked Lovely”).
Characters are all over the place. Zara has become a selfish, selfish girl, more concerned about her boyfriend, Nick, than the 20 other youngsters that have gone. She spends this ENTIRE book racing around after Nick. The 20 other kids, some of whom she probably went to school with? Who cares! We have to get Nick, who died! Her obsession even overlaps her love for her mother, as shown in this out-of-the-blue quote:
“I won't regret my decision no matter the consequences, not if I can get Nick back. I won't regret it at all, not even if it means my own mother can't bear to look at me.”

Wow, this came out of left field! When did Nick become the do-all, be-all, see-all? Yes, she's been obsessed about finding him for almost two books (TWO BOOKS), but still, she did care about Issie, Devyn, Betty, and her mom (and others). With this quote, it's like she's changed into a completely different person.
The characters, when you see them, have become all sorts of cliché. Devyn, Issie, and even Cassidy are barely even on the radar and are reduced to 1-dimensional characters (ooh, Devyn researches! Issie is cute! Cassidy can heal!). Zara's pixie father is a wasted character; Zara's mother is now a work obsessed mother who suddenly has a 10 month obligation to her work (yet another discontinuity). I can't take the giggling, evil Isla seriously, the stereotypical British butler, Bentley, makes me want to vomit nails (Zara really hasn't watched enough movies and TV to be able to recognize a stereotypical British butler? Please!), Vander was so obviously a traitor, the people of Valhalla are descriptively described as wearing “Viking” clothes, the gods act like surfer dudes, and so on.
Let's now get to the juicy stuff: the story. It's obvious that some publishers have realized they hit a gold mine and told Jones to write more, because this book is filled with barely enough plot for a novella. Nick's capture shouldn't take almost two books to resolve; it should have been accomplished by the middle of “Entice”, leaving the rest to resolve the pixie uprising (sort of like “Return of the Jedi” resolves Han's capture from “Empire Strikes Back”—actually, the correlation between those two movies and the last two Need books is what I was somewhat expecting). So, to fill up the 200+ pages, Jones is forced to drag out finding the key to Valhalla endlessly. Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if they would ever find the blasted city.
This plot is handled very carelessly and sloppily, strewn with more red herrings than a fish farm. After the dance (which accomplishes absolutely nothing story wise, other than to show A) the town is filled with idiots who don't know how to enforce martial law during a crisis and B) Jones had to find something to fill the first 50 pages of this novel), the team tries to figure out how to get to Valhalla. Devyn does his internet searching, and the rest slouch around. Then Astley miraculously approaches Zara stating he knows how to get to Valhalla and the key is in Iceland! Betty hardly bats an eye as Zara hops a plane in Bangor International Airport to Iceland, which seems slightly out of character. It's also odd that a small airport like Bangor International Airport has a convenient flight to Iceland just when Zaran and Astley needed it. I checked the website, and most of the flights at BIA lead to NYC or other DOMESTIC flights to American cities. If Zara and Astley were to fly to Iceland, they likely would have had to fly to New York then to Keflavík International Airport, which isn't even mentioned by name (it's just the generic “airport in Iceland”). Yeah, these sidesteps were boring, but Jones makes mentions of several other unnecessary “sidesteps”, such as the entire useless trip to Reykjavik, in which nothing is accomplished and Zara's father is mindlessly, senselessly, stupidly killed for no other reason than he was an inconvenience (which was a shame, as I wanted to have him bond with his daughter). When Zara returns, Cassidy provides the next plot contrivance when she notices a costume party at a bar being held by a “strange guy” from a bazaar she saw. Wow, now that is what I call hard-core evidence! When he proves to be useless other than to get Zara shot, Zara and Astley sneak off to New York (the “apple” from the BiForst guy's clue—wow, there is so much creativity there, I think my brain will explode!) to meet Astley's mom, where more sidestories are thrown at the reader. From there, coincidences and plot contrivances pile up until it is one big pile of deus ex machina.
As if this isn't bad enough, I can't tell you how many continuity issues. I had just finished “Captivate”, so I remember that Astley had left the house to drum up pledges from pixies. However, at the beginning of “Entice”, all of a sudden, Astley is looking for his mother who apparently knows the location of Valhalla. Wow, news to me! Also, at one point, Zara complains about the lack of diversity in Maine; however, most of the Maine characters that she interacts with have dreadlocks, Mohawks, or described to be non-white (specifically Devyn and Nick, who, I got the impression from “Captivate”, was black or Native American). What is she complaining about, lack of diversity?
Another thing that made me explode in rage was the instantaneous creation of the “anti-iron pill”, a plot contrivance created so that Zara and Asltey can fly planes to Iceland without having to fret over all that nasty iron and steel in planes. Jones never once indicated earlier there was such a pill; if it did exist, why does no one use it earlier? Why is Astley the only one with this pill? Why don't the bad pixies have it? Who created it? You do not spend two books creating this world, just to dump a half-@ssed patch for your pixies' greatest weakness. If you are going to include an “anti-iron pill”, you at least make an effort to A) introduce it earlier or B) make some allusion to its sudden creation beyond “Oh, yeah, Astley had these really cool pills, but he doesn't use them much and only he has them”. Talk about totally violating the trust you built in your readers.
This disregard of sticking to the rules of the world continues when Zara is able to wield a power she A) had experienced only minutes before at the hands of Isla, a more powerful practitioner, B) had never used nor practiced using before, C) was able to use almost perfectly the first time to get exactly what she wanted, and D) although there are numerous times later on where Zara could use such a talent, she never does, as if she “forgot” she had this ability. I can't even begin to describe the head-banging and yelling sessions this caused me to experience. You don't have a character immediately learn a new skill without lots of practicing and trial and error. This is Writing Characters 101. This is why so many fan fiction Suethors with their Mary Sue's & Marty Stu's fail: in wanting to prove the uber coolness of their character, they have their Mary Sue immediately learn skills she has no business learning.
It's hard to take the events in this novel seriously when the characters don't seem to take the events seriously. The biggest example is the dance. A bus-full of students has been attacked, several are dead, and more are disappearing. Does the militia come in and order a military curfew? Do the parents/teachers discontinue school? Do the police create a perimeter? Nope, apparently not, since our characters rush to make it to the high school dance, which hasn't been canceled and isn't even being monitored. What the hell? Who does that? How can you give your audience a sense of urgency about Nick and all these others who are dying or have been abducted when your characters are more upset about what heels go with what dress? In fact, as the quotes at the beginning of the chapters indicate, no one even THINKS of enforcing martial law until the very end, after 20 youngsters are gone! Glad to see this town is in good hands—NOT!

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
A possible f-bomb is replaced with @#$%. Spatterings of da**, he**, cr*p and p*ss are present.
Teenagers at a party are said to be grinding. The costume party at a bar has scantily clad women.
Zara and her friends fight off a lot of pixies. At one point, a character is shot.

“Disappointing” hardly seems the apropos word I feel after reading this mess of an entry in the Need series. I am disheartened, crushed, and sad. I loved “Need”. “Need” was genuinely unique, a standout in this genre. It made me fall in love with pixies and yearn for more. “Entice” almost doesn't feel like the same story, the same world as “Need”. What was dark and creepy, accented with the eerie recitation of phobias has become “Generic Young Adult Urban Fantasy Pixie Story 869”.
I got this as an ARC, but I was 100% prepared to buy this in paperback when it came out, so much did I love the series. After finishing, I can easily say I won't be buying “Entice” in paperback; I don't even know if I will be pursuing the rest of this series.
For those just thinking about starting the series, I suggest to read “Need”. If you love it like I do, don't continue; it will just ruin the taste in your mouth. If you don't like it because of the dark overtones, then continue because the sequels barely feel like “Need” at all.