I’ve been waiting to read this book for so long. I heard about it back in the dark ages when Cait @ Paper Fury posted a review. I hunted for it afterwards, but it didn’t come out in the US until May 2016!
A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.
This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.
Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.
– The plotting.
Holy crap that was a good plot. It was paced perfectly and set up nicely. Nothing seemed out of place. It was airtight.
– The format.
This is probably the only time you’ll see me praise a diary format. But I don’t think there is a better way to portray this story. You see everything how Greg sees/interprets it, which leads to a lot of oh man that’s creepy moments even when you understand why he’s thinking/doing it. And every few chapters, there are police interviews with members of his family, so you also get to see their side of things, and from the very beginning you know that something bad has happened. So it really sets up a kind of mystery/thriller vibe.
– The US cover.
Just look at that cover. I think it captures the overtone of the book. Seeing from Greg’s perspective, you know he’s troubled but very genuine and good-hearted. But you also see him break social norms and do some creepy things. And that cover definitely captures the creepiness.
(I have no idea what’s going on in the UK cover.)
– The extra details.
Well, okay, I lied. Some things did seem like they were thrown in without sufficient meaning or explanation. Like the Miss Hayes’ engagement. Or the goings-on between the other high school kids (especially towards the end). I’m not saying these were worthless details, but I’m not sure they were completely necessary. It helped show Greg’s social alienation, but there were some specific details that I did not see as completely relevant.
– The sentence-long chapters.
Sometimes, Greg will have an episode while he’s writing a diary entry and the entire chapter (we’re talking 5+ pages) is one very long sentence. I liked that it was included because its clear evidence that he’s not doing well despite his medication (and despite what his parents believe), but it was pretty hard to understand.
– The cover’s font.
This font is so overused and totally ruins the dark and suspenseful mood.
But it was fascinating to read. There was so much that isn’t explicitly stated; you just have to figure out what is going on by context. I really liked that here. You have to read carefully (there are still a few points I’m confused about), but it’s not too hard to figure out what is going on.
Pick this up if you’re interested in mental illness or reading from different points of view (it’s written in 2nd person), but be sure to have ice cream nearby for when you finish.
Rating: 4/5 stars