Criminal is the first book I've read by Terra Elan McVoy and I know it's a branch out from her typical style of writing but I'm definitely planning to check out her other books based on how much I enjoyed this one. It's a quick, gritty read that will leave readers thinking long after they've finished.Criminal starts off with a bang and while it does fizzle out a bit after that first initial shock, it quickly picks back up and will have readers turning pages as fast as they can. It's not necessarily an action packed story but it's a very gripping read. It's a story full of shocking twists and I didn't see most of them coming. That's what really kept me reading. The dialogue style threw me off for a little while but I got used to it within the first 30 pages. All of the main characters (Nikki, Dee, Bird) talk like they are uneducated (which they are.) It's not an often used style of dialogue and so I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first. Once I got used to it though, I realized that the story would not have come across the same way without it. It will definitely bother some readers but if you can get past that, the story is worth it.The characters are not easy to like, at all. Take Nikki, for example. She's blinded her "love" for Dee. All she ever thinks about it what's best for him. She's obsessed with him and it gets really annoying. She completely ignores all his bad qualities and relies on him for her happiness. She gets really whiny and needy when he ignores her (which he does often) and the abusive way he treats her gets completely overlooked. The second half of the story is when I came to actually like her, not a lot, but some. She grows a backbone and finally realizes that maybe Dee isn't as great as she originally thought. She's still not a great character but she was better. Then there's Dee. Readers don't get to know much about him except how he acts around Nikki. I hated his guts based on his interactions with Nikki. He's the worst kind of guy out there and if I could, I would have reached into the book and beat the crap out of him. He had no redeeming qualities. As for Nikki's mom, Bird, the cops; they're not a huge part of the story. They all play their roles but I really didn't have feelings for them, one way or the other. Also, while I've never been to prison (and don't ever plan on going!) the setting did seem very realistic. I'm not sure what kind of research Terra Elan McVoy did for this story but everything seemed genuine. It's definitely not your typical setting and I found it a refreshing change, if a little scary. Overall, Criminal is a very unique contemporary for YA. While I didn't love it, I greatly enjoyed it and I think fans of Terra Elan McVoy's other books will too.