Initial reaction: I shadow read (meaning I jumped to it between other reads and forgot to mark it in my currently reading tab) this from my library perusals and while the text meandered a bit in places, I still found myself captivated by the writing and story overall. Definitely an adult read (though it features a young protagonist). I’d probably rate this at 3.5 stars overall.
This was a difficult book to read in more ways than one, but ultimately – I’m glad I did. The writing was lovely, though the narrative meandered in places more than I thought it would, and ultimately that made me take longer to read this book than I’d otherwise would’ve, even with hearing the audiobook narration by Emily Bauer (who did a nice job overall). But I understood that this book was told in the voice of a young teenager grappling with the reality of everything surrounding her – and some events she portrays aren’t necessarily what they seem through her eyes alone. If anything, I got a sense that she was in denial about something, but I couldn’t tell what it was until much later in the book.
Lizzie is distraught over the disappearance of her friend Evie, who was said to be abducted by a teacher in the area, but there’s more to the story than that. Lizzie struggles to put the pieces together as Evie’s disappearance stretches out for more days, but there are greater realities lingering under the surface than simply what Lizzie uncovers and drops in the form of breadcrumbs for others including the reader, even if she has to actively lie to others in order to lead them in the right direction.
I honestly had no idea where this book would go, but the attention to Lizzie’s perspective and intimacy of detail had me hooked to the case to see what happened and how the people involved coped with the aftermath. The attention to sexuality among other very tough, graphic subjects in this book is not misplaced, but I can understand why this is a book that not everyone would like. I appreciated the unflinching look and grappling with reality that Lizzie had, but at times it did repel me, not just for the subject matter, ultimately it shows the sexual/mental abuse of the girls by the men in their lives, and Lizzie struggling to come to terms with that. , but because the narrative kept jumping from one train of thought to another. Part of this was to kind of emphasize her denial of events, others it was to keep the reader guessing for events, but I don’t know if the presentation was as strong as it could’ve been with the way it came across. It had some jagged, rough moments, and some of that roughness could’ve been smoothed out a little more, even with the voice of the protagonist and what she, among others, had gone through and felt with respect to everything.
This is by no means a YA novel, definitely an adult read for the subject and content despite the ages of the characters. It is hard to take in, especially once the reveals are handed down. The last 50 pages pretty much deliver blow after blow, tying up the events while at the same time showcasing just how flawed all the characters are in this novel and the justifications/denials they make in all of this. I can’t say that I was gripped with this book as much as “Dare Me”, but it did have my attention. A book with this subject matter normally wouldn’t be my cuppa (matter in point, I’d probably be hurling the book down in utter rage at the circumstances), but I was taken in by the writing and how Abbott presented the narrative. It’s dark, lyrical with the prose, and the audio narration stayed true to the voice and urgency of the character, so I have to give it credit despite bumps in the presentation.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars