See more of my reviews at We Live and Breathe BooksWhen I found Branded, I immediately bought it after reading the concept – I was really intrigued by a society that literally brands people for their sins. Branded definitely did not disappoint me.The society of Branded is crazy. I could never have imagined something like Lexi’s society until I read this. In Branded, the Commander calls the shots. He can make whatever rules he wants for whatever reason he wants and doesn’t have to explain. The Commander thought the seven deadly sins were the reason for all the bad things in the world, so anyone accused of a sin was branded and sent off to the Hole, the place where all sinners are forced to live. Just for being accused. There’s no trial – any one accused of sinning is assumed guilty and branded. That’s precisely how Lexi ends up there.Branded follows Lexi when she is accused of lust and thrown into the Hole. When Lexi goes into the Hole, she has pretty much given up on life. After her whole family either abandons or betrays her, Lexi is left very meek and feeling like no one cares about her. I absolutely loved watching Lexi evolve throughout the story. While she starts out accepting her fate even though she was wrongly accused, Lexi grows to be a confident girl with the will to survive and get out of the Hole.While Lexi’s actions and developments felt so real, Cole, the guard assigned to watch and protect her, was kind of all over and never fully made sense to me. From the beginning of the story, Cole is nice to Lexi for what seems like no reason. Instalove? It’s the only possibility I can think of for him caring for her so much almost immediately after they met. Even though this didn’t make sense to me, I really loved Cole. The way he cared for Lexi through everything was so sweet. This was definitely a romance that made my fingers all tingly and filled me with joy, although there were a few corny lines. I was especially happy for Lexi finally finding someone who truly cared for her and made her happy when her life had been so dismal. The romance wasn’t the only aspect of Branded that evoked emotion in me. Throughout the entire story the reader gets tastes of the trauma that Lexi went through before being thrown into the Hole. My heart absolutely broke when I found out exactly what that trauma was (and it was by no means predictable!). Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki did a phenomenal job expressing Lexi’s emotion. When Lexi was scared, I was scared; when she was desperate, I could feel her desperation deep down to my core. Branded threw me through so many emotions that I didn’t expect. It made me laugh, it made me smile, it made me cry – it was just wonderful.One thing that was sort of disturbing but completely necessary to the world building was the violence in the Hole. Not only are sinners branded and sent to live in the Hole, they’re also treated as though they aren’t human beings. Like the Commander does whatever he wants in the society, the guards do whatever they want in the Hole. Without protection by a guard, a pretty, young girl like Lexi, branded for lust, would be attacked by anyone, including the guards. The Hole is a place of chaos with no rules. The people living in the Hole have been reduced to nothing and they act that way. There was so much violence and death in Branded, but it shows exactly how unhinged and desperate the people who live there are.The end of Branded wasn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it definitely left me wanting more of Lexi and Cole’s story – I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to their world after the events of the book. I saw one of the “twists” at the end coming, but I think it was just me trying to figure out how a twist could work in rather than the twist actually being obvious. Overall, I really loved Branded. There were some minor mistakes in the Kindle copy I had (sider instead of spider, on instead of in, etc.), but nothing that took away from the story. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an emotional journey through such an intriguing dystopia.