Quick review for a quick read. I didn’t expect “This is Not Forgiveness” to be as emotional or as intense a read as it was, particularly considering where it began. It takes a bit getting used to because you’re navigating between three different perspective points told in first person (in the print book – they’re distinguished between different fonts, but in the audiobook I bought from Audible, it’s heavily reliant on the intonation of the narrator. Steve West does a fantastic job with the narration, but I still had to pay attention to remember who was narrating).

The story revolves around Jamie, his brother Rob, and Caro, the girl who has a complicated relationship with the both of them. Jamie’s a boy trying to deal with being a part of a difficult family – he’s considered a good kid, but in the aftermath of losing his father to war, navigating a partially abusive relationship with his older brother, having a sister who likes to make his life miserable, and a mother who goes back and forth between caring too much and too little – he’s got a lot on his hands.

Rob has returned from Afghanistan and Iraq after an injury to his leg, but carries far more than just physical scars marking his return. Some say he’s a war hero – he’s won war medals for his actions on the field – but on the inside, Rob carries a much darker streak and history of mental illness that has caused his family grief, with Jamie often being in the crosshairs of his brother’s alternating nice and mean streaks.

Caro is known as girl with a rough reputation, but the story of what’s behind the rumors and how she’s responded to them is much more complicated than the talk surrounding her. She’s become inspired by militant rebels from history and wants to do something to change the social status of things. However, the plan she concocts with Rob is far bigger than anything she could’ve imagined, and her relationship with Jamie seems to complicate things far beyond her plans.

It’s a complex book, and while the style of the writing is a bit haphazard to follow at first, by the end, I found it smooth and thought the ending was powerful. This book carries a very dark tone throughout – but I don’t think I was prepared for how heavy the events would come across as the book marched to its conclusion. It was certainly worth reading, and while it’s only the second book I’ve read by Celia Rees, I’m eager to read more of her work.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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