By: Megan Abbott
Release Date: July 7th, 2011
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
This book has many contrasting reviews online. Some are glorious, with high ratings and accolades for the author for developing such a tale. Others dismiss the book, their criticism ranging from “it didn’t suit me,” to the book being terrible. Where do I fall? Good question because…I’m just not sure.
Okay, first things first — there are some spoilers here because there is no good way to review this book without them to explain the ups and downs of this book.
What I liked about the book:
It’s a thriller, directly in my wheelhouse. It’s a young adult thriller, more specifically, and even more in my preferred read style that has taken over lately.
It is well-written. This, in itself, is both a positive and a negative, the negative to be explained later in this review. On the good side of it the writing is beautiful.
This book kept me guessing. There were red flags everywhere about characters, motives, etc. However, perhaps it was the nature of our unreliable narrator but some things seemed to jump around. A bonus in the ‘this sounds like a thirteen year old’s head” category but the jumping of thoughts did make it a little hard to follow at times which helped with the tension of the story telling.
What falls somewhere in between good and bad:
Despite some of the negatives below I have to say I felt concern for some of the characters. Some, not all. Evie (our missing girl) turns out to be a willing disappearance which is concerning given she ran off with an older man (whom I felt nothing but disgust for.) Other characters like Lizzie (our narrator) and other women in the book just confused me or I felt pity for them (stuck in bad marriages, in love with someone they can’t have, etc). However, my emotions weren’t strong. I wasn’t worried about Evie when I wasn’t reading, I didn’t care if Dusty was upset or not. They didn’t weigh on my mind like other characters have.
Also, anyone care to weigh in on what the hell is going on with Mr. Verver? The narrative makes me believe he’s abusive (sexually? emotionally? mentally?) to the women in his family but it isn’t clear. Maybe that’s the author’s intention, to keep the reader confused and show how uncertain Lizzie is regarding the world around her? I wish something more definite had been explained here. At the very least, the man gives me the creeps.
What I disliked about the book:
The writing style. Going back to my earlier comment about how it is well written here is something I’ll rarely say. It’s too well written. The writing, the voice, is far and beyond what our thirteen year old, emotional, confused narrator should be able to comprehend/formulate. It just didn’t suit her.
The book didn’t hook me in the beginning. It was pleasant enough to read but I hit a wall quickly. While I was interested and kept guessing the truth it was far too easy to put this book down and walk away from it for a few hours. Something that, for me, is very bad. If I’m reading a book and I don’t groan with frustration when I put it down I am not happy with the book. Plain and simple. If I can be easily pulled out of it, it’s a very bad sign. Especially when there is a mystery/thriller book in my hands.
Not my favorite book. Not my most hated book. At this point I’m just thinking that maybe it wasn’t my cup of tea and that maybe it will suit someone else. I’m also not willing to give up on Megan Abbott. Her style is interesting and I’ll give her other books a shot.