My rating: 1 of 5 stars
“Hanging by a Thread” is actually a cool title for Sophie Littlefield’s story revolving around a young woman who can read intentions and events via articles of clothing and ends up pursuing “threads” in a murder mystery going around her hometown, but it’s a downer when you realize that everything about this story is, ironically, threadbare. The mystery, the characterization, the romance – almost everything about it just never measures up to the potential that the premise lends, and I felt completely disappointed by it. It’s a shame because I came into it wanting to like it, intrigued by the premise, and YA mystery stories with a touch of paranormal is right up my alley in terms of stories I like.
So what went wrong with this one? I’ll start by recapping the premise and going from there.
Clare is a junior in high school working as a seamstress with a special ability to read articles of clothing and uncover some of the wearer’s darkest secrets. In a town defined by some very distinct tragedies, it certainly seems like a recipe for Clare to jump in and play detective, but Clare’s not apt to use her ability. In a town she’s just returned to after being away for some time, Clare’s family has a reputation – Clare’s Nana has the same ability and has been an outcast of the town for some time. Clare’s mother didn’t inherit the ability, but Nana’s interference with her life has caused her much grief growing up as well as in her collective life. Clare doesn’t want to follow in either her mother’s or Nana’s footsteps and just wants to blend in as best she can. But when certain visions Clare has with her ability start coming to the forefront before the anniversary of the last death, Clare can’t ignore the signs, especially since it points to people in her close circles.
Clare herself is not a very likable protagonist – and I don’t think she ever recovers in the course of the narrative. She constantly berates her mother, laments her ability, and she even falls for the local bad boy Jack, who might as well have three letters tacked on to his name to describe how much of a jerk he is to her as well as anyone else who crosses paths with him. Romance? What romance? There’s no chemistry between the leading characters and whenever Jack does end up showing up – he’s either angry, overly aggressive, beating someone up, or instaloving with Clare. Seriously, there are really not very many characters to like in this story, and they feel mostly like puppets on a stage which has a very interesting backdrop. Now I’ll admit I liked the paranormal elements and some parts of the overarching mystery (because it did keep me wondering in the whodunit spectrum), but I felt the story lacked intimacy and didn’t pop off the page. It fell into so many YA paranormal cliches – girl who likes bad boy even when he’s abrasive and supposedly dangerous, girl who sees obvious clues into the mystery, but doesn’t act on them or connect the dots, among other things. I also didn’t like the fact that pretty much no one phoned the police because the general idea was that the police were useless.
By the end of the narrative, I was really to be finished with it – it frustrated me that much because I saw the potential in spurts with the story, but too many elements of it just didn’t work. Add to that the massive info-dumping of details and lack of character chemistries, I think “Hanging by a Thread” is more likely to leave one dangling and wanting more from it than reeling one into its respective tale.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House/Delcorte Press BFYR.