My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: I’ll have to review this when I can pick both my mind and heart off the floor. Well written, vivid, and heartbreaking, but the ending of this really shortchanges the book a bit.
This book tore me to pieces.
I almost didn’t write this review because I was afraid I’d get too emotional trying to figure out how to reflect on the work, and even as I write it now, I can’t help thinking about the many reactions it prompted. When I finished it, I had to take a bit of a mental break from anything else, because I couldn’t shake how heavy the story weighed on me. If a story can elicit a fair share of emotions from me, make me care about the character(s) within, and leaves me thinking about the subject matter after the last page is turned, it’s usually a good sign for me as far as the impact and notation is concerned.
While this might’ve been a quick read (about 3 hours or so via audiobook), it’s packed with a lot of emotional punches. I wouldn’t recommend this book for sensitive readers or young YA readers. I’ve read my fair share of tough, push-the-envelope stories, I can take immersions in controversial subjects. Even still, I don’t think I was quite prepared to read this even when I’d heard quite many pieces of feedback about it.
The story revolves around a young woman who was kidnapped during a class trip to the aquarium. Now 15, “Alice” is not more than a shell of her former self, abused physically, mentally, and sexually by the man who holds her captive, Ray. Alice counts down the days that Ray will get tired of her and end her life. The story continues down in the depths of the spiral that Alice experiences in her days with Ray. It showcases her fears, numbness, horrifying justifications in the sense of distancing herself from the abuse, and ultimately what happens in the process of Alice and Ray proceeding to find a new “recruit” so to speak. But Alice does find her own way of attempting to reach out, and provides a conclusion – regardless of how you feel about it’s execution – that grabs hold and doesn’t let go.
In consideration of the story, this book fully delves and pulls no punches in portraying Alice’s damaged mind and the reality of her abuse. The flow of the writing comes across smooth and sparse, though the material is jarring. I have to commend Scott on all counts for this, though if I have a bone to pick – and the one thing that kept me from giving this more than four stars – the ending didn’t mesh well with the rest of the book in the way it was written. The events leading up to it were described fine, but I think the transition just didn’t work as well with the ending, though I knew what Scott was going for.
Ray is a monster of a man, but the book also shows him as the subject of abuse in his own past, and there’s a focus on the cycle of abuse that not only comes in Alice’s perspective, but also in consideration of what she sees and hears him reflect upon. I did appreciate even the focus on details from people who tried to reach out to Alice between the cycles of horror, and in a sense, Alice finds her own way of reaching out despite some dark turns in her thought process in trying to get away from Ray.
I can’t say that I enjoyed this work, but the indelible impression it leaves is strong and it’s a book I would say read for the impact and what larger discussions it can promote on the matter.
Overall score: 4/5