If You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, hadIf You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, had some unexpectedly decent writing, a remarkable understanding of criminal law (over which I was excited, that being my favorite class last semester and all the material still fresh in my mind) and a lot of potential for a great YA psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the novel quickly unraveled during the second half, ultimately delivering very messy and underwhelming climax.
This is a very short novel that flies by and makes it very hard to tear your eyes away. The subject, the careful delivery and the approaching trainwreck makes for a highly entertaining read, which I certainly never expected. The dual narrative worked pretty well with the thrilling atmosphere of the novel, though I did struggle with differentiating Johnny and Becca's voice from one another. Each voice was infused with a certain degree of personality, in one of the cases it was obvious one of the POVs was entirely unreliable, but it didn't made much of a difference in the tone of each of this character's, which made it hard to keep track of who was telling what part of the story sometimes. Another two nameless POVs were added in there, one concerning a website for confessions which was initially intriguing, but ultimately contributed nothing to the story and tended to drag on, disturbing the flow of the action. There is an crucial plot twist concerning those two perspectives, but it was still not important enough to disrupt the nice rhythm Johnny and Becca had going on with the narration.
I understand unreliability was key to one of the POVs, but even facts were hard to follow with the characters, particularly when trying to understand the timeline. I originally liked the jumpiness of both narratives, mostly because they started their stories at different times in the chain of events, but soon enough it became hard to place the actions and events, especially because they didn't keep a straight timeline in their narration.
The tension was well handled in the story and it was consistent throughout the entire novel. I liked the way the characters presented themselves, and though a bit generic sometimes and not entirely deep, they were successful in conveying the type of personalities that worked well with the story and the atmosphere. I did struggle with trying to connect the methodical nature of one of the characters and the constant talks about the effort they've placed into planning this situation with the overall half-assed plan they ended up trying to make work. Much of the novel hinges on the unpredictability of the character's motivations and actions, and I can't honestly say that worked often in favor of the book. They sometimes felt like they came out of nowhere, other times inconsistent, and others were just a tiny bit predictable.
The biggest flaw in the novel, however, is the rushed ending. There was barely any built up for it, and worst of all, for the sake of the pace and a supposedly unexpected twist, several sub-plots were forgotten. Several things the characters said ended up amounting into nothing, some of their actions made no waves in the plot whatsoever, and that ended up hurting the impact of the novel and its credibility as a tightly woven and tense thriller. The abrupt nature of the climax made it underwhelming and it almost felt like not much thought had gone into it. Though it represents a great leap in character development, it doesn't feel that way. For a story that felt so convoluted throughout most of the pages, the ending was too simplistic and it ended up reveling just how underdeveloped and underwritten the story, the characters and the plot were.
This is one of those novels that are mindlessly entertaining, their strength lying on how easy and quick it is to read them. There's nothing profound or complex, not much in the way of stellar storytelling. It's just morbid fun. In terms of quality, this novel is pretty much a 2.5, to be honest, but the fast pace and strangely compelling story made it a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience....more
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almos1.5 stars
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almost entirely on a twist that has been over-abused by authors recently, especially this year. I can think of about 4 different books released in 2015 alone with the exact same premise, one that's certainly sensationalist and has its roots deep into overblown and far too often misinformed ideas about psychology, but that's entertaining nonetheless - except when one has been forced to read about it in just about every "edgy" new YA attempt at a psychological thriller.
Aside from the monumental suspension of disbelief needed to overlook all the holes in the plot and setting, this novel also requires extreme patience from the reader as everything is revealed in a very self-indulgent and frustratingly slow pace, all so that we can be left with little else besides a lukewarm feeling of detachment and indifference. This is not an exciting novel nor is it compelling in any way or form, either. For such a short novel, it dragged far too much, almost like it was embedding its nails on the ground to try and prevent the whole thing from moving on. The worst part is that it is not so much the slowness that bothered me, but the lack of reward for my patience. I can handle slow books, and in fact, most people would correctly argue that most of my favorite books are actually very slow paced. But there's a difference between slowly building a complex world or well-developed characters, and just being slow for the sake of delaying the "big reveal" over which the entire point of the novel depends. This book firmly positions itself in the latter category.
Moreover, there's very little substance to the novel, no depth whatsoever. A book that hinges entirely on a psychological theme desperately needs more than some Wikipedia article's worth of depth and profundity. I don't doubt the author has experience dealing with the topic of mental health, but she chose one of the most complex psychological problems for her story and then delivered little besides the hugely overblown and sensationalized aspects of the issue that the media has been promoting for years. That, mixed with a thin thread of a plot, deliberately shallow characterization and flimsy relationships based entirely on superficial conversations and generic character traits, made it really hard to take anything about this novel seriously. Twice in the novel, the main character laments the absence of her roommate and new friend, bemoaning how much she needs her and wishes she were there to help her through the current problems, and twice she's only capable of mentioning two small and generic topics over which they shared similarly small and generic conversations that we are supposed to believe led to a deep and emotional bond. Similarly, we are supposed to believe the bond between her and this new guy, particularly the lengths he's willing to go for her, because they claimed something clicked between them when in fact the whole thing was strained and forced.
The book is not original and it offers no rewards to readers already experienced in the genre - or anyone who has read one or two YA psychological thrillers, really. It is frustratingly predictable and it bothers me when authors pull a later-years M. Night Shyamalan and hope the audience will forgive the painfully slow and uneventful 90% of the work because of that one "twist" that takes place towards the end (which is the very same complaint I had with Twisted Fate). It's not clever and it is not enjoyable. It is simply lazy writing. In spite of all this, the author did a decent job with the atmosphere of the novel overall and writes well enough, so I'll round my rating up to two stars. Besides, the book can be enjoyable, but it depends entirely on how well you predict the twist. If you do it from the first line, like me, maybe it's better for you to move along. ...more
This is the third book I've read this year with analogous style and premises, the other two being The Boy Meets Girl Massacre and Diary of a Haunting, both of which similarly employ the diary/journal device to tell the story of an unreliable girl's horrifying paranormal circumstances, and for the most part, I think The Dead House is marginally more successful than the previously mentioned because of the better quality of the writing and plotting. But while The Dead House provides with a much more satisfying and technically superior execution, it loses control of the story halfway into the novel and ends up being far too long-winded for its own good. By the time the climax rolls around, my excitement had dwindled considerably, almost to the point of exasperation and boredom.
All in all, The Dead House is a decent novel as far as YA horror goes. It provides a unique angle to the tired journal device by layering the storytelling with interviews, notes, video transcriptions, psychological and police reports and newspaper cut outs, effectively providing an interesting clinical and seemingly objective tone to the entire narrative and allowing the story to expand beyond the narrator for a more complex cluster-fuck of a read. The downside to all of this is that it becomes repetitive, and after the techniques lose their newness as the story goes on, they become fairly tedious to get through as well.
I understand and commend the author's intention in wanting to develop her main character's insanity/horrors and to give space to all these background information to settle and provide the reader with a dual perspective on the story that could easily go either into psychological or paranormal explanations, which, for the most part, worked pretty decently. But I think the novel is far longer than it needs to be and that worked against the quality of the story because it started to rely on the same devices, character interactions and actions over and over, turning the scenes that were supposed to be disturbing, unsettling and horrifying into crutches to move the story forward.
The Dead House does provide with fairly entertaining thrills and nicely-written scenes of terror and violence. But the in-betweens make the story drag and ruin the effect of some of the scenes, plus, it over-complicates what is a fairly simple story that doesn't want to settle in what exactly it wants to be, jumping far too much from psychological thriller to horror without as much cohesiveness and conciseness as it should've had. It's weird, but by the time I finished this novel, I felt like I had read about 4 book's worth of content.
And for a novel with so much time spent on seemingly meaningless character interactions, most of them ended up being little more than puppets as far as their complexity and definition went. We had vague descriptions of who they were physically, a handful of lines dedicated to their emotional and mental states, and so their actions throughout the story felt jerky, pulled only by the strings of the author's desire and needs. There isn't much reason why anyone in this novel do the things they do. We are supposed to just label them crazy, damaged, disturbed or simply slaves to their teenage desires and that's it. Two fairly important secondary characters, Naida and Ari, always appeared ridiculous to me, their characterization, motivations, actions and conversations far too outrageous and forced into the narrative of the story. The romance, likewise, felt strained, forced and underdeveloped.
For the first half, this book was actually very enjoyable and engaging, but as the story dragged, the pages went on and on and on with basically the exact same scenes and conversations, my feelings for the novel changed drastically. There are some really decent plot twits in there, but the novel is so single-mindedly focused on delivering twist after unexplained, underdeveloped twist that even that grows tired after a while. Moreover, some sub-plots were left hanging and no clear answer is given at the end for, well, anything at all.
The novel is okay, entertaining to a degree and surprisingly engaging. It's too much of a cluster-fuck, too needlessly convoluted and complex, and it drags too much, but still, a decent read, all in all. ...more
Ruthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reaRuthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reading, but at the same time, I stayed away from it for hours at a time because of the powerful impact it had on me. Deeply engrossing, brutal and terrifyingly realistic, Ruthless is a fantastically written story of survival and, simultaneously, a short, fascinating study of both the good and the bad parts of human nature.
When I picked this up, I had no idea this story would be this intense, that it would leave me this stressed and tense and on edge. I expected the typical lukewarm YA thriller, the one with exaggerated and unrealistic odds but still manageable enough for a generic heroine to handle with almost superhuman abilities and unrealistic feats of human strength. Ruthless was nothing like that. In fact, the story actively worked against the main character. With every step and rounded corner, she was mercilessly ambushed by the story, brought down with terrifying brutality. That's what makes this novel so great, because it's all about Ruth as a character. Her tenacity, her strength, her spirit. Adams gave us a magnificent heroine, one that actually deserves to be called a heroine, one the kept fighting, kept struggling and never had anything handed to her by the grace of the story or the author.
What's particularly interesting about Ruth is that, in spite of being one of the strongest heroines I've read about in quite a while, she is nowhere near perfect. She is not unbreakable and definitely she doesn't breeze through this book and the horrible situation she's been placed in. She fights every step of the way with tooth and nails, she never gives up, but she is not left unaffected by this. Her psychological unraveling under the weight of the events that take place in the story is fascinating and extremely well-written. Adams managed to write a book where, the more vulnerable and raw the heroine is, the stronger and tougher she gets. Ruth was so riveting a character and a fascinating heroine to follow. She is flawed and so thoroughly human, she was one of the most compelling aspects of an already compelling story. She was a utterly believable young woman, a realistic heroine all the way through.
Half surviving being hunted, half wilderness survival, Ruthless takes place within the span of two or three days and never once loses it breakneck speed. This is a very graphic and disturbing read, one that doesn't shy away from the horrors of the situation, though it is toned down somewhat. One of my favorite things about the novel is how, using a dual narrative of flashbacks in between the narration of the actual story, it provided a fascinating overview of the two main characters in the novel, the way both of them bordered most of their lives between good and bad choices and how that shaped them into the persons they were today. It laid out the stage beautifully for the situation they found themselves in, the choices they made and the way they acted in it.
There were some religious undertones in the narrative that turned me off a tad from the narration and there was a rather careless use of the word slut at the beginning of the novel that, though I see its need in that moment, still left a sour taste in my mouth, but these are pretty much all the concrete complaints I have of the novel. This book is about human resilience and courage, and it did a fantastic job portraying the good parts of humanity while still allowing for the darkest, more sinister parts of it to show as well, and not only through the antagonist. I particularly loved the climax, the way it all comes down to a close and the impact it had on Ruth. I adored that the novel never tried to make an unrealistic leap from normal teenage girl to invincible avenger out of nowhere, that instead it allowed itself to take a more realistic and strangely powerful turn. I also loved that the novel made a point of showcasing how internalized misogyny can insidiously grow into something truly terrifying and how the careless way in which some people talk about women affects the way women are perceived and treated.
An engaging, well-written, fascinating and disturbing read, Ruthless was more than a pleasant surprise for me. This is a fantastic thriller and survival story, a deeply engrossing study of humanity and probably one of the best YA thrillers I've read in quite a while. ...more
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itse2.5 stars
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itself fall through the cracks that being overly ambitious left in this book. The book should've settled in just one of the two POVs. There was no need for both of them, and the shifting between the two hurt the suspense in the novel for no purpose whatsoever. I understand the allure of both characters for both of them were interesting enough to warrant attention to their stories, but by choosing both, neither got the development they needed. Emily remained a fairly static character that contributed nothing to the narrative and Damon's increasing psychological unrest felt manufactured and forced. Neither ever truthfully contributed to the tension in the novel with their unraveling psyches, and to force some blossoming attraction between them added nothing to the novel and was far too strained, even though it was barely developed in the story.
The novel loses momentum far too soon, decelerating abruptly and slowing down to a repetitive crawl. No effort whatsoever was made into hiding the actual culprits and secondary characters were brought back into existence and then quickly forgotten whenever it was necessary. Emily and Damon made for some pretty boring leads, even though they started the novel as the complete opposite. The rest of the characters aren't even worth mentioning for they left no impression whatsoever. The only semi-interesting character in the novel was the dead girl as she was presented through memories and flashbacks, but I hated the way in which she was characterized. The only remarkable character in the entire narrative and she was given barely any characterization at all, just enough to subtly demonized to the point that it felt like the story itself was saying, not only that she was partially responsible, but that she deserved what happened to her. And that's it for female characters. The other three female characters besides the MC are a backstabbing ex-best friend, a random Muslim girl (only character of color in the entire novel) that has one line in the entire novel, and the MC's drunk mother. Yay for female representation. Not that the male representation fares any better as they are all equally flat and uninspiring, but at least a bit more effort and numbers were given to them.
Deliberately short of details to prolong a predictable mystery, an overwritten story that still left characters vastly underdeveloped, and an emotionally bereft narrative make The Killing Woods a very underwhelming book that truly had the potential for so much more. ...more
I started this novel with some pretty low expectations. The blurb had led me to believe this was yet another half-assed YA thriller that woul3.5 stars
I started this novel with some pretty low expectations. The blurb had led me to believe this was yet another half-assed YA thriller that would focus entirely on the romance and semi-love triangle and then deliver a predictable and underwhelming conclusion, patting itself on the back in undeserving, smug self-satisfaction for a derivative, mediocre work while I raged all alone in my room. I was wrong. The Devil You Know is a very strange novel. Not in content, but in the way it deals with the story. This is the type of narrative that makes for some cheap movie thrills on a horror blockbuster during October, the type of story that might've easily felt familiar, recycled and uninteresting, but due to Doller's commendable writing skills, it was none of the sort.
The Devil You Know certainly offers the tropes and cliches of the genre, but Doller wove them into the story so masterfully, it made for a very engrossing read, regardless of predictability. Moreover, in a small amount of pages and with the weight of the story actively working against her, we were given an unexpectedly engaging and capable protagonist that I could root for in spite of the amount of stupidity behind her choices. It's a strange thing to see yourself liking someone who makes such monumentally idiotic choices, to feel actual dread instead of self-righteous satisfaction to see her struggle against the terrifying situation she placed herself in. Acadia's characterization was done so well, I never actually held against her the consequences of her choices. She certainly makes terrible decisions, but they never felt forced or uncharacteristic to her character. Every stupid choice she made actually felt natural within the context of her characterization and what we'd seen of her life. It was truly incredible thing and it perfectly shows the skill this author possesses, that I am actually praising a character that deliberately placed herself in this situation without a care.
I was actually pretty stunned as well by the way the romance was handled. Sure, it was insta-love to a certain degree, but I believed the connection between Noah and Acadia and it was all due to the palpable chemistry between them. The intensity of their connection felt natural, never forced. And the fact that they never tried to play it as love, as anything other than intense attraction made their bond feel even realer. Moreover, this novel had some pretty progressive things to say about just almost every important female topic right now. It was refreshing to see Acadia talk so maturely about women's issues, about the effect of the patriarchy on the perception of women and how it inhibits their sexuality and its healthy expression. Sure, I wouldn't go out of my way to declare Acadia a feminist icon, but after all the rampant girl-on-girl hate and slut-shaming I see in YA fiction almost every day, it felt good to see a character, and therefore an author, advocate so strongly for the liberation of female sexuality.
I do think the novel was a bit too forgiving with some of the male characters, particularly one whose behavior bordered on sexual harassment far too often, one Acadia forgave for thinking of him as a brother. But I think Doller handled the two main guys pretty well and gave them believable psychologies that were crucial to making the mystery in the novel realistic or believable enough. She did, however, sort of painted herself into a corner when it came to the mystery and it all ended up being far too predictable, in spite of her best attempts to make the plot twist a big surprise.
This novel is surprisingly engaging and entertaining. It's not perfect, of course, and it is slightly problematic, but it's very well-written, unexpectedly so, and Doller made it all work, tropes, cliches and deliberate character stupidity aside. This was a pretty enjoyable thriller and the fact that I get to say this at the end in spite of my initial underwhelming expectations, makes this novel deserve those rounded up four stars. ...more
Was The Fixer a blatant rip-off of the Scandal tv series?
Do I care?
It's been quite a while since a book had me so completely riveted, so absolutelyWas The Fixer a blatant rip-off of the Scandal tv series?
Do I care?
It's been quite a while since a book had me so completely riveted, so absolutely enthralled, and, once that happens, there's very little that will stop me from really digging that book. The Fixer was very entertaining, suspenseful, and actually managed to surprise me with a couple of twists. I need to stress how important it is to me that a book surprises me. Most thrillers, mysteries and horror stories fall through for me because of how predictable they are. I'm a hard person to surprise, in both reading and real life, so when someone or some book actually manages to sneak up on me, I get hung up on that and I love it.
Now, it would be a disservice to attribute my feelings for this book entirely to how twisty it was, because the truth is that this is a genuinely well written, well plotted and entirely engaging novel. The political intrigue and games, though sometimes a bit preposterous, were absolutely riveting and well carried out throughout the novel. The suspense was handled with finesse, the pace made the pages of this novel fly by, and Barnes filled this novel with very interesting characters.
Tess is a tough, smart and very engaging main character. I liked everything about her, from her attitude to her narrative voice and her actions, and thought her a very competent heroine. She was far too stubborn and impulsive sometimes and completely clueless about several crucial things, but, while that annoys me with other heroines, they all felt very authentic to Tess as a character and instead she came off as a realistic teenager to me. I believed her feelings, her reasoning, and I even understood her temper tantrums and her stubbornness. That's the difference between having a teenager do those things because teens are supposed to act like that or because it's convenient to the plot, and allowing your character to express herself and her feelings in a way that feels natural and authentic. I also enjoyed that the plot made it really clear all throughout the novel that this situation was well over Tess's capacity and her capabilities. It always seems ridiculous to me when we have this big mystery and conspiracy and only teenagers are capable of discovering it and then bringing a solution to it. Tess tries really hard, but I loved that she became aware that she was in over her head on this, that she needed help and that there were some things that were well beyond her reach. It added a layer of authenticity to the story that I really appreciated.
The rest of the characters were fascinating in their own right. I genuinely and legitimately liked every single character or was at least fascinated by them, regardless of their inclinations, and it's not because Barnes made them likable, but because she made them realistic, flawed and human. They had dimensions to them, far beyond what was required of them for the sake of the plot, and I loved that I could understand them, feel the emotion behind their choices and see how every step they took made sense within the context of their characterization. It takes a very impressive talent to make so much of secondary characters in the handful of lines they have within the book.
This book never sacrificed character depth or development for the sake of the plot, never took away the spotlight from the characters themselves in spite of the big proportions of the mystery that the novel focuses on. The same goes vice-versa. The quality of the mystery never suffered because of the focus on the characters and their developing relationships. It was twisty, engaging, surprisingly layered, and kept me on the edge of my seat all throughout the novel. Whenever I thought I had all the answers, The Fixer swept the rug from under me, taking the plot in directions I didn't anticipate and deepening the mystery every time the characters thought they knew where they were going. The novel had multiple subplots going on at the same time and it managed to bring them together seamlessly while still allowing for some threads to be left hanging naturally for some other upcoming sequels. There were a couple of twists in there that were taken right out of Scandal, but Barnes made it all hers and they went perfectly with the novel, so I couldn't even begrudge the novel that.
There's no romance in this novel, for which I am extremely thankful. I think Barnes knew that would've taken a lot from the plot and the characters, and it just goes to show the control she had over her own storytelling, how in tune she was with the story, because I can honestly say she made all the right choices with this one. There was but a hint of possible romance, nothing even outright evident but enough to make me wonder if it could be taken in that direction, and the thing is, I'd love to see how it could develop in further novels, but not in this one, and I'm happy she saw it that way too. Moreover, there was zero girl-on-girl hate, a surprisingly positive portrayal of popular girls, and a very fascinating diversity to how girls, and teenagers as whole, were portrayed in this novel.
Fast paced, riveting and complex, The Fixer is a pretty fantastic political thriller, which I honestly didn't expect at all. When I picked this up, I expected to be mindlessly entertained by some half-assed, ridiculously preposterous plot and some generic teenager characters, but Barnes pretty much blew all of my expectations away. The Fixer is intelligent, nuanced and well-written, more so than pretty much all of the YA thrillers I've read recently. If has a lot more to offer than a simple teen mystery, and it's far more than just a Scandal look-alike. The concept might not have been all that new, but Barnes made it her own and made it great. ...more
Is this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of thoIs this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of those books that you roll your eyes at, that make you snort at the sheer absurdity of it all, but it's also one that you just can't stop reading, no matter what. It is compulsively readable, very intriguing and undeniably riveting. I was hooked. So yeah, there were inconsistencies in the story, plot holes, and a deliberate over-stretching of a plot that couldn't possible be stretched any farther, but I had fun reading this novel, as in, legitimate, authentic and thrilling fun. The book is twisty and does all the things an intriguing mystery is supposed to do. I sort of figured the whole thing out about a third into the story, but the book kept me guessing, and that's what this type of book is supposed to do, which is something that most YA mystery/thriller fail horribly at.
I felt like some of the characters could've used a bit more dimension, like the big reveal could've been a bit more polished, the antagonist given a stronger motive, and I could've done with a lot less sexualization of the girl love interest, although I was happy to see that she owned her sexuality with unapologetic confidence, but truth be told, this is not a book that made an impact on me in terms of quality. It was just a thoroughly enjoyable, very engaging read, which was exactly the kind of book I needed to read at the time I picked it up.
Max's voice was believable, realistic and engaging, and I actually liked what the author did with Parvati's characterization, but you have to be prepared to deal with these characters making terrible decisions for the sake of prolonging the plot. Like I said, this book is so unrealistic it actually physically hurts, but all in all, it's a very readable, entertaining book that I had to stop myself from reading in one sitting, and that's, in all honestly, all I wanted out of it. ...more