Book Review – Badger by C. M. McKenna

by Maryse on September 23, 2015 · 15 comments

in My Book Reviews

WOW!!!! This one tore right through me and had me in pieces, rocking back and forth. I was… melancholy. *phew*!!! I need a hug. No… I need TO hug. I need to hug Badger. Adrian. Every single character in this book. My doggie, a stuffed teddybear. YOU. ;)

And yet I loved every single second of it. 5 stars without a doubt!

I saw this one a few weeks ago upon it’s release, and it sparked my immediate interest ’cause I realized C.M. McKenna was actually one of my most favorite authors in the world, Cara McKenna. I knew I was going to be in for some magnificent story telling. Unique blurb, strange-ish cover, and a new “pen name”? What was THIS going to be about? I had a feeling I was about to embark on an incredibly emotional journey. And if I was lucky? Maybe even a love story, even if it wasn’t listed as a “romance”.

In fact, as my fellow reading-buds right here have been calling it… it’s anti-romance. LOL!!! But the “love story” part is front row and center, albeit a little “anti-love” too. An unconventional love story in every way. ‘Cause you’ll soon realize, as our heroine does, that it’s so hard to love and be loved by someone like Badger.

And I am SO thankful to Amy for jumping in, and letting us know that it was EXACTLY what we were looking for! Badger is EXACTLY the kind of brooding, anti-social, scarred “hero/anti-hero” we crave. And not once does it feel contrived. That’s what I LOVED about this one. His scars, his pain, his attitude, it all comes from his own personal hell, and his method of dealing with it. And not once did it feel… manipulated. The pacing, the backstory, the main characters, the side characters, the attention to detail exactly when it was needed… pure perfection. The story told itself.

Amy: I am so consumed right now with The Badger. Not even kidding. I’m at 70%, and I went in blind apart from the blurb so I don’t really know where things are going…and I *love* that, even if it is making a mess of me. I’m loving everything about this book. How, HOW has this book been out since August 31 and it only has 3 reviews?!? Ladies, there’s nothing to be scared of with Badger…just go into it knowing it’s not a warm-and-fuzzies book. I wouldn’t even classify it as a dark read but it’s not a light read either. It’s just…real. Real life and real struggles. That’s all I can say without saying too much.

Grey: 50% into Badger. The feels. Such classic Cara McKenna… Raw, painful, almost real world abrasiveness. Definitely not putting it down!

Grey: Finished Badger… I need Manny the manatee, a blanket fort and a glass of wine…stat!

Amy: seriously, think of Badger as a diluted Tarryn Fisher book…it’s going to mess with you a bit but it’s SO worth reading and has an ending that is fitting for the story. ;)

Cheryl: At about 30% in Badger. Oh my poor f*@#ked up, angry Badger and Adrian’s not much better!!

Jean: I finished Badger. What the hell did you “make” me read?!?! This book has my head spinning out of control…Yeah, can’t stop thinking about it and I KNOW I will never forget it! Going to try and start something new today, but my brain is all mushy from Badger. Don’t know what to read next……

Amy: I know, Cheryl…they’re both a mess but in different ways and for different reasons. You know what I really appreciated was the self-awareness of Adrian and Badger, with both of them knowing why they were *where* they were in their lives. It didn’t really make things any easier but at least they weren’t making excuses, ya know?

Cheryl: Yep, Amy. They, especially Badger, make no excuses for the way they are and I think b/c of Badger, Adrian is becoming more accepting of how she is not “normal.” They do compliment each other. I get the anti-romance aspect now too.

Cheryl: “My heart is breaking for Badger…HORRIFIC… Didn’t realize this was so dark- Badger has REASONS for why he is the way he is. :(

Maryse: I just want to announce, yet again, that Cara McKenna rocks. Omg the detail and personal reflections and descriptions of just… Emotions, thoughts, her surroundings… are so real, and wonderful and tangible and I am a happy reader right now. One of my favorite writers ever!!!!!!!


The opportunity felt like spun glass, delicate and improbable, and I was afraid to do anything to jinx it, to bump it, to wreck it.

How many time have I felt exactly like this? Something so wonderful has potential. And yet… Perfectly described. And this… She’s feeling… Happy. Content.

“I closed my eyes and hugged my purse to my middle, feeling the cool breeze on my skin, the warm morning sun on my face. I breathed in that comforting dryer-sheet scent mixed with the best smell there is – autumn.”

And I am right there with her…

Lise: Oh… thank goodness you are reading Badger next. I just finished it this morning and Wow, just wow. Speechless and in awe… Amazing piece of writing! Ms. McKenna is AMAZING and this one (Badger) is phenomenal. I have been loving my most recent 5 star reads but this one is in a league of its own :-)

Cheryl: Maryse, Badger is definitely the definition of a dark, anti-romance read- I get what that means now- I’m at 90% and chewing my nails wondering how this can end!! I’m all over the place with thinking how it should end and how I wish it could end!! Badger is scary, in that, it hits every emotion and some repeatedly. Dark, emotional read!

Lisa: I just finished it! 5 stars for me too!  It was so ….yeah. Can’t stop thinking about it. I am feeling a book hangover. I am scrolling thru my library trying to decide what to read next but I just can’t.

So what’s it about?

Adrian is a recovering addict in Boston, in her late 20′s and trying to redeem herself to her family, and live a “normal” fulfilling life. Having been born a twin, her sister is the “light and happy one” whereas Adrian feels as if she’s always been in her shadow.

…the invisible girl. Not odd enough to mock, not ugly or fat, just so remarkably unremarkable that I simply blinked out right before your eyes, blending into the wall, where I liked to be.

That said, the sisters absolutely love each other, and Adrian seems to have had a great homelife, despite her own personal… emo-ness. ;) There is no animosity. No matter how “dark” her emotions get, how out of control she once was in her life… She loves her sister so much.

Hey, womb-mate.” I squeezed her tight, loving that perfumey whiff of her hair, loving her eyes as we parted, bluer than the cloudless autumn sky. I loved her so much. So much more than I loved myself.


And she has a slight fascination with the city’s own anonymous vigilante that everyone has nicknamed “The Badger” due to his striped hoodie. The Badger is often seen paint balling citizens that “deserve” a reprimand of sorts.

…basically, he was a menace on a bike. He probably didn’t make Boston any safer. The opposite, really. He just made it more fair.

Those that litter, hurt others, don’t pick up after their dogs… you get the picture. ;)

They called him the Badger because he was rabid and aggressive, black and gray.

They called him the Badger, but I thought he made a far better pigeon. He swooped out of no place and disturbed people on busy city streets, peppered clothes and cars with white paintballs like combat-grade bird sh!t. Black and gray on top from a striped hoodie, faded orange sneakers on his feet. People said he was dirty and feral, an urban transient. People loved or hated him, just like a pigeon.

Me, I like pigeons.

And when Adrian is “lightly” hit by a car, the Badger just happens to be whizzing by on his bike, and helps her. And that’s when her extreme infatuation with him begins. She finds a way to meet up with him again, and again…

“Sorry to wake you up from whatever Robin Hood wet dream you’ve been f!ngering yourself over, but I don’t do that stuff to help anybody.”

My hopeful balloon deflated with a doleful sputter. “Pardon?”

His bike was lying against the curb, and he righted it, holding the handlebars. “What I do, I do out of hate, not humanity. Because punishing a$$holes gets me off — not saving victims…”

And soon he realizes he can’t help but to be drawn to her. They both feel it.

“You want me to hold you or something?” Badger asked.

“Um, I dunno. Maybe.”

He spread his legs wide, inviting me to sit between them. I did, liking the feel of his chest behind my back, his arms as they wrapped around mine. I was pinned, but it felt nice. Badger was a straitjacket, filling me with a beautiful sense of containment and surrender.

Awwwwww *sigh*

Some kind of “magnetic pull” that each are aware of when the other is in their vicinity (P.S. this is not at all a paranormal, or “super-hero” or anything like that – or at least, not as it’s portrayed in this story – it doesn’t go to deep in regards to that pull. Just that it’s there, and it’s unmistakable. I’d almost liken the “draw” between them… the magnetic pull, to be just two souls that recognize each other. Need each other… something pure, like that).

“When I see you, I get this weird tug inside me, this pressure. Almost like I need to take a piss—”

I laughed. “Oh, great.”

“Just this funny feeling, like this hook in my guts is dragging me toward something. Only I don’t know it’s you until . . . there you are.”

He finds himself seeking her out and eventually… slowly… tentatively… letting her in. Because she calms him.

Ahhhhh you guys!!! It’s amazing… and SO personally tragic. And you’ll see why.

I absolutely LOVED that the entire story was from the heroine’s perspective. I felt her every emotion to the core, her infatuation turned elation, her desperation turned devastation. Never knowing what Badger was thinking, and only experiencing him from her eyes, and how HE wanted her to “know’ him? It was everything I needed to become one with them.

Being with Badger these last few weeks was like drinking seawater, and everything after him tasted bland and sterile.

I’m stopping there!!!! The rest is your journey to take with them, and I can assure you… everything about it is superb!

Brilliantly written, unique and uncomfortably profound and so real in every single personal moment. Every single thought, action, reaction… honest. Often painful and yet laden in love. Just a different kind of love, I suppose. Harsh and at times emotionally distressing, but hopeful.

If you’re in the mood for a raw, gritty yet beautifully written love story, this is it. What a journey…

I was apparently still the kind of girl who’d get on her knees and let someone f**k her mouth in exchange for her drug of choice. My drug was nearly six feet tall now, clad in a striped jacket instead of an orange bottle.

But it still didn’t love me back.

That hadn’t changed.

GAH!!! Oh the feels in this one…

5 stars!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy September 24, 2015 at 12:30 AM

*OOMPH!!!* Every feel just came flooding back. Again. That ending…it was so perfectly fitting for this story.

I still can’t believe I didn’t put two and two together with the name C.M. McKenna and Cara McKenna until you mentioned it the other day…this was a totally random pick for me, and it was mostly because of that funky cover and I WAS FLOORED by it, and I love that so many here are giving it a shot as well! It definitely needs more recognition. If After Hours is even a fraction as good as Badger then I’m going to be in love again here soon when I read it.

Excellent review!! :D

bev September 24, 2015 at 1:03 AM

So much sadness and depression and tears lately.
Going to take a guess on the ending ……..nope nope nope.

Lise September 24, 2015 at 1:04 AM

Such a wonderfully written and heartfelt review, Maryse.
The feels keep flooding back every time I read a comment or review of this book.
This one will be in my favorites of 2015 for sure.
Gah… I need my HUG

Marit September 24, 2015 at 1:34 AM

I’m dying to read this book! I have to wait for the weekend though. I’m on a work travel (booooooooring) and have so little time. I love that you LOVE it, Maryse ;)

Paula September 24, 2015 at 3:13 AM

OK you have twisted my arm – I was resisting but have now 1-clicked!

Jean September 24, 2015 at 8:35 AM

Great review Maryse…..yep, this one will stick with me for a while. Thanks Amy!

Elizabeth Lynx September 24, 2015 at 8:37 AM

I am reading it right now! Seriously. I saw your review in my email and thought, “Do I wanna look, do I not wanna look? What if she has a spoiler? No, I’ll look.”
I’m glad I did, because I am only a few chapters in and it’s like you all are seeing what I am seeing with this book: amazing, doesn’t begin to describe it and devastating is just the tip of the iceberg. I can already feel it coming hard!
I’m excited and scared at the same time.

Cheryl September 24, 2015 at 10:28 AM

Maryse, *big hugs* Badger kicked my butt- haven’t cried like that about a book in quite a while. Such an emotional read- you just knew how it *had* to end, but I still held out hope. Going into it, I wondered about that cover and even mentioned to a friend I think it’s significant and means ** and sure enough it did. ;)

Sharon September 24, 2015 at 7:11 PM

I know what’s going on my TBR pile! I am reading Hollywood Dirt and LOVING it! Brad De Luca the lawyer is really intriguing me. Turns out, he had his own series – Innocence. Anybody read it? I know I am going to binge read everything Allesandra Torre has written!

Ela September 25, 2015 at 8:11 AM

Hold me! I’m starting this today!

Maryse September 25, 2015 at 9:53 AM

Eeeeeep!! :P

Ela September 26, 2015 at 5:38 PM

i just finished Badger! Loved it! I laughed and I cried. Totally made sense, that ending!

marina September 27, 2015 at 1:04 PM

Just finished Badger. Such an intense and raw story written so beautifully. I could not narrow down my feelings throughout. Just all over the place. I’ll never forget this book. And Cara McKenna’s writing is above and beyond. Everytime I read one of her books I just want to drop everything and read every one of her books. So glad too that she listed all of her titles. Thanks so much for the recommendations!!!!! Any recommendation on how to pick up and carry on now? Whatever to read next… what can follow this?

Kat Paradis September 28, 2015 at 10:48 PM

I found Badger thanks to Maryse and her latest question of what us readers want. She recommended it demanding I read it NOW. So I went in blind. I 1 clicked without reading the synopsis or even this review.
It’s exactly what I was looking for. Dark, gritty, deep, emotional, and so many other feelings I just can’t list. The writing is amazing. The things said in this book spoke right to my heart. It’s given me a push to follow what makes me happy.
No it’s not a novel for everyone but it’s so worth the read. 5 stars. Cupcake & Badger will be with me for quite awhile.

Diane M October 5, 2015 at 8:51 AM

Wow, this was so good, having the worst hangover! Did anyone read the acknowledgements? I wonder if this was personal at all for her? Truly stunning, definitely literary fiction, not romance, but great

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