Review: Fahrenheit 451 (By Ray Bradbury)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 194 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Guy Montag is a fireman in a futuristic, dystopian world. Books are illegal in this world, and the only job that Guy and other firemen have is to burn books hoarded or read by rebels. It’s the only life Guy knows, the only one he believes to be right and true. Until he meets a strange young woman, Clarisse, who speaks of sharing ideas, of living a life beyond the television-addicted one that most people live, of a life before books were banned. And Guy begins to question everything he’s ever known. Attracted to the very books he’d spent most of his life destroying, he begins to read in secret. But little does he know that books have the power to change thought and life. While Guy struggles to understand the new emotions and unrest he’s experiencing, Clarisse disappears. And Guy is thrust into his worst nightmare – fighting the very people and system of which he was an integral part. Will his new-found ability to see the world differently than others save him? Or is he doomed to the fate he brought upon so many others – death by fire or life in prison?

The Bottom Line:

Fahrenheit 451 tries very hard to be thought-provoking, intense, and visionary but falls short on most of it, managing to become little more than a narrative that’s too abstract, broken, and choppy.

My take:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury has a reputation. Published in 1953, the book was visionary in its take on a dystopian, television-focused future. It was also raw and sort of in-your-face regarding a lot of the ‘given aspects’ of life. Consequently, the book was republished (infamously) with a cleaner, less abusive version, and was also (ironically) banned from schools’ reading lists. Yet, it received many accolades for its story and stand, becoming a beloved classic for many reader groups, and being touted as Bradbury’s best work ever.

Which is why I get that I may not be in the majority when I say that I did not like this book.

The book definitely has some aspects that were visionary. The dystopian future, the technology-addiction, and the heightened sensitivity to anything and everything – all of this adds really interesting elements to the feel and setting of the book. It also has aspects that are thought-provoking – what happens when people stop thinking for themselves, what happens to compassion and society when we only become involved in thrills and getting that next high, what happens when free speech is no longer a thing, and what happens when people believe nothing but that which they’re trained to know, see, hear, and accept. These points paint the picture of a harsh world which, to be honest, doesn’t seem that far-fetched now. And the fact that our world may not be too far from becoming that which the book depicts really makes you think about just where people – rather, humanity –  is going.

The sad part though is that the book doesn’t do a great job of successfully evoking these thoughts to the extent that it can. Fahrenheit 451 has a lot of potential, but I found it really failing on implementation.

The book is written in an extremely abstract manner. That definitely has its appeal as a style; but not when it’s so overdone that you sort of get lost in the abstract prose and can no longer follow the intended meaning. This is especially predominant in Guy Montag’s thoughts and actions. A simple action is exaggerated to give you a real feel of its intensity. But the exaggeration just does not end. It goes on and on to the point that you forget what the action was, and can barely understand the thought it evokes. By the time you’re brought back to the scene, you’ve traversed numerous other, unrelated ones, and completely lost track of where the story was going.

Most of the book is this way – with simple actions and thoughts, and even the settings, made extremely abstract. And while I do enjoy abstract touches in prose, I thought Fahrenheit 451 went so far with it that it moved from being abstract to being downright convoluted. A lot of what the book could have offered as a dystopian environment was lost because it was just so confusing to comprehend. Then there’s the fact that books are burned, but knowledge is passed down. Some books are allowed, but no one is allowed to think for themselves. It seems like all these were brilliant aspects of an idea that somehow just never came together. And, in the end, the reason for books being banned in the way that they were just didn’t make sense. Personally, it made me think that if Bradbury had spent less time on abstract descriptions and more on actually adding to the story and setting instead of leaving it tacit, the book would have been very different.

All in all, Fahrenheit 451 has a very interesting premise (which is why it gets 1.5 stars instead of something much lower) but makes for an unpleasant, slightly cumbersome read (which is a very difficult thing to achieve in a book this short). I heard about the book when its movie adaptation gained popularity. The blurb seemed very exciting, so I wanted to read the book before I watched the movie. Although I didn’t enjoy the book, I do want to watch the film to see its cinematic interpretation (which didn’t do all that well, apparently, but… oh well!).

It may have gone down in history as a cult classic, but I really would not recommend Fahrenheit 451 to anyone. There are better books that fit into the dystopian genre, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Share your thoughts on the movie and the book in the comments below! And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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Review: Into The Darkness (By Sibel Hodge)

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Source: Goodreads

Length:

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Toni wants to study criminal psychology to be able to help people, especially children, affected by the evil deeds of which psychopaths are capable. But a week before her university course begins, she discovers something horrifying in the deepest corners of the internet. Before she is able to wrap her head around what she’s seen, she finds herself attacked, abducted, and locked in a dark cell. With no help from the police, Toni’s mother turns to an old friend for help. Ex-SAS operative, Mitchell, has seen the worst that the world and its people have to offer. He knows that evil is not a concept of fairy tales, but a very real threat that can exist in the form of anything and anyone. Uncaring about the law and only concerned with quick justice, Mitchell is a vigilante with a mission – bring Toni home safe, no matter what it costs.

DS Warren Carter has been a detective for so long that the job and the growing lack of justice are beginning to make him grow weary. He is two weeks away from retiring from the force and taking up a different job. Then, he’s called in to investigate the double murder of a simple, seemingly normal couple. Nothing is what it seems in the case. DS Carter is short on staff and has almost no support from his overbearing, bureaucratic boss. Yet, he won’t let the case go, relying on the instincts that have always had his back to try and solve the cold-hearted, heinous crime. But the case isn’t simple, and DS Carter finds himself falling into the depths of a world that is more twisted and evil than he could have ever imagined.

Time is running out for Toni as Mitchell tries desperately to find her in a world of shadows where anonymity is pivotal. And DS Carter is beginning to question everything he’s ever known. The Missing, the Vigilante, and the Detective are caught in a dangerous game, one that offers threats at every turn, and that none of them may win.

The Bottom Line:

An interestingly told thriller that does not shy away from the gory stuff, hits you in the face with the truth that you’d rather never know, and spins an intricate, well-plotted tale that is not made any less enjoyable by its predictability.

My take:

Writing in the first person isn’t always easy. Not too many people like the approach so you have to be exceptionally good at it to ensure that your audience can associate with the character they’re following. Writing from different points of view consistently isn’t easy either. It’s altogether too easy to get their personalities mixed up, and end up with one’s style seeping into the other.

Yet, Sibel Hodge does both these things with brilliant precision in Into the Darkness. 

The story follows a vigilante who believes that justice is best served instantly, a missing girl whose desire to help people takes her into the depths of unspeakable horror, and a detective who’s been worn down by the injustices he’s witnessed in his career but still, desperately, needs to trust in the legal system. All three are gray characters, and Hodge’s style allows you to follow their internal battles and really get into the story. She doesn’t break their characterization at all, which adds to the association that readers develop for the characters.

The story itself is quite interesting. It is based on a topic that has been done previously (in movies and books) – the dark web – but still manages to be fresh in its approach. It’s also painfully graphic, so those who aren’t used to too much gore may have a few cringe-worthy moments while reading. When you look beyond the near-horrific narrations though, you see that it’s less about the activity and more about the people behind it. Into the Darkness focuses a lot on what people, good and bad, are really capable of; on how far someone can go, how malleable their morals can become, if they’re motivated by greed and insane fetishes, or the desire to help people and enable justice.

The book proceeds at a good speed, taking you from one POV to another and back as you turn pages wondering just how (and even if) these three arcs meet. It’s not immensely unpredictable, but there are definitely some shock-factors. The characters within the story have apparently made appearances previously in other works, but the story is complete in itself. All in all, Into the Darkness is a well-paced, intriguing thriller; and while I wouldn’t say that this should be the next book you should read, it definitely should be on the TBR pile of anyone who enjoys the genre or wants to venture into it.

Recommended to:

  • those who enjoy thrillers
  • those who enjoy multi-POV or first-person focused books (both these aspects are done extremely well)
  • those who like crime fiction

A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of this book. It led to me discovering some very interesting characters and a new author to follow. Share your thoughts on how you liked (or are waiting for) Into the Darkness and any other books by Sibel Hodge in the comments section below.

Into the Darkness releases on 3rd June, 2018.

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: Obscura (By Joe Hart)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 348 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Dr. Gillian Ryan could do nothing but watch helplessly as her husband withered away into someone she couldn’t even recognize. Affected by a new and fast-acting form of dementia, he lost his memory, then himself, and finally his life. Her infant daughter was the only ray of sunshine in her life at that dark time. But eight years later, her daughter begins to show the terrifying symptoms of the disease. Gillian has already dedicated her life to finding a cure, but her daughter’s sickness renews her determination. Until the university cuts her funding. Gillian is on the brink of losing hope when her college boyfriend comes back into her life. He wants her to travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew members are showing symptoms similar to the psychosis that’s threatening her daughter’s life. Without any other option, Gillian accepts, hopeful that her research will help save her daughter too.

But things are not as she was made to believe. Gillian’s apprehension turns to paranoia as strange events begin to unfold around her. Something is terribly wrong with the crew, and things are only getting worse. Battling her own problem of addiction, one that she’d kept secret from almost everyone, she begins to lose sight of the line between reality and nightmare. But, as she realizes, the worst is yet to come. Desperate to find the solution that could save her daughter’s life, Gillian is forced to fight against an unknown danger, the unimaginable threats of space, and her own self. As precious days and weeks tick by, Gillian begins to wonder just what she’ll lose first to the horrors she faces – her daughter, her life, or her sanity.

The Bottom Line:

An edge-of-your-seat read that brilliantly blends science fiction and thriller to create the written equivalent of LIFE meets Alien meets Hollow Man.

My take:

The first thing to know about Obscura is that even though its cover says Obscura: A Thriller, it’s quite predominantly science fiction. The science fiction part of it is quite interesting although I won’t claim to fathom its actual possibility. It’s not Jurassic Park type science fiction; maybe a little simpler. But if you take it at face value, you can really get into the story.

The book has a lot of crazy plot twists. Some are expected, but most aren’t. It moves along at a very brisk pace and keeps you turning the pages relentlessly. But the best part about the book is its rawness. Every character is very real. They’re very human. They’re weak, strong, good, bad, kind, selfish, and everything in between. But more importantly, every emotion is blunt and honest, while not being dramatized. You can really experience the characters’ emotions, and this is done so subtly that the suddenness of those emotions makes them even stronger.

The book doesn’t shy away from reality and, in no way, romanticizes the notion of good vs. bad. It dabbles predominantly in gray areas (for events and people), and has parts that are graphic and disturbing primarily because of their straight-forwardness. Like in life, it offers no guarantees, and all these factors make the entire book very hard-hitting.

The only thing that works against it is that it moves back and forth a lot, which makes it a tag confusing. But other than that, the book has very little to affect the excellent reading experience it offers. While it is a bit difficult to break down the elements that make it a good read, Obscura, as a whole, is very thrilling, beautifully raw, and even emotional. It’s one of those books that stays with you long after it’s done.

I would highly recommend Obscura to:

  • fans of science fiction
  • fans of thriller and mystery (who don’t shy away from graphic details)
  • those who love/enjoy movies like Alien and LIFE

A big thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of Obscura. It got Joe Hart on my radar and I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Obscura is available for purchase, so get your copy, have a read, and share your thoughts on why you loved/hated it in the comments below! And thanks for stopping by my blog – I hope you find your next read here.

– Rishika

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Review: The Retreat (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 335 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Horror novelist, Lucas, decides to travel back to the town he grew up in, taking up residence in a writer’s retreat as he works on his latest novel. He hopes that the peaceful town and surrounding forests will help him get over his writer’s block and finish the book that his agent and editor are waiting for. But within days of arriving, he discovers the tragic past of the woman who runs the retreat.

Two years ago, Julia’s husband, Michael, died while trying to save their daughter, Lily, from the river that ran near their home. Lily’s soft toy floating in the river had been the only indication that she’d even fallen in. But the police never found her body. Julia believes that her daughter is still alive. Caught in limbo, she’s not able to even mourn the death of her husband. After the tragedy, she turned their home into a writer’s retreat as the only way to save herself from going broke and to keep her mind away from the loss that tore at her every day.

Lucas’ interest in Julia’s story grows every day. Until he finds himself doing everything he can to find out what really happened to Lily that day. But as Lucas continues to search for answers, eerie events begin to unfold at the retreat. Someone, or something, is watching from the shadows. Lucas soon discovers that something is amiss in the events of the day when Michael died. And that a dark secret plagues the town, the retreat, and the forests surrounding the house – a secret that will always remain protected, no matter the cost.

The Bottom Line:

The Retreat has an intriguing storyline and hits all the right notes on suspense, thrill, eerieness, setting, and pace, making for a fast, engaging read.

My take:

What I liked the least about The Retreat was Julia. Although you do feel for her after everything she’s been through, she comes across as a little too annoying, too often. Of course, the woman lost her husband and her daughter and is living in a state of limbo. So you can understand the irritating attitude. But what I couldn’t understand about it was how Lucas seems to be oblivious to her flaws. The dynamic between them, for that reason, didn’t make all that much sense to me. Still, it wasn’t the worst, could be written off as the result of the experiences they’d had in life, and was the only slightly irritating part about the book. And the rest of it more than makes up for this.

The story is quite intricate, with a lot of things happening across decades, leading up to the events of the present. The characters are all well defined and have a good real-ness to them. They are all incredibly human in their arrogance, humility, successes, and failures, and in their good and bad. That is what makes the story so relatable – you can actually imagine everything that happens really taking place in a similar setting. It’s also got great suspense and a great setting. It pulls you in right from Page 1 and keeps you hooked throughout.

The best part about the book, though, was its thrill. The Retreat isn’t one of those books where scary faces look out at you from the dark. The thrill it evokes is more subtle and, consequently, incredibly effective. It’s one of those books where the creepiness is brought on by that feeling that you’re being watched, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but when you turn around there’s no one there. Yet, you know that someone, or something, was there. It’s the kind of thrill that gets under your skin and stays there, making you a little jumpy at sudden sounds and dark areas. That’s why it stays with you longer and really makes you experience everything that’s happening in the book.

I received The Retreat from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s the second Mark Edwards book I’ve gotten from them and although the first one I’d read – The Lucky Ones – was quite good (you can read the review for that here), this one was definitely better. Edwards, who I’d started following after The Lucky Ones, is definitely one of the better (newer) thriller writers and I would love to read more from him. What really makes his work interesting is the variety he brings. It’s not just serial killer thrillers. Edwards writes different stories that just come to him, and while all are of the thriller genre, each of them has a different take on the category. The Retreat, especially, does more than enough justice to the psychological thriller genre under which it’s pitched, which is quite refreshing because (lately) too many books are sold as psychological thrillers when just ‘thriller’ would be more suitable a tag.

I’d strongly recommend The Retreat to:

  • fans of thrillers and crime fiction novels
  • anyone who wants to try out a new thriller author (I’m sure you’ll enjoy Edwards’ style)
  • those who want a thriller with a twist

A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of The Retreat! The book released on May 10, so grab your copy right away!

Share your thoughts on The Retreat or any other books you’d like to recommend in the comment section below!

– Rishika

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Review: Silent Child (By Sarah A. Denzil)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 416 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Emma was only twenty-four when her six-year-old son wandered away from school during a flood and was never seen again. She watched as they pulled his red coat out of River Ouse. They never found his body, but everyone knew what had happened – young Aiden had drowned. The tragedy tore her and Aiden’s father apart even before they could truly come together. When her parents died a few years later, Emma felt truly and completely alone.

But ten years after the flood that took her son from her, Emma has moved on as much as humanly possible. She found happiness again with her new husband and is weeks away from having a daughter. Life finally seems to have turned in her favor. And then Aiden returns.

Aiden is too traumatized to speak. But the signs of years of abuse and neglect evident on his small, frail body reveal the truth – Aiden hadn’t drowned, he had been kidnapped, and caged and tortured for ten years. And someone in their small town is responsible for the heinous act. Emma attempts to reconnect with her now-teenaged son but finds that she may not know him at all. Aiden has the answers she wants, but he can’t speak. And as Emma desperately searches for the answers that can help Aiden get justice, the world she’d carefully build begins to crumble all around her. And this time, she may not be able to survive the fallout.

The Bottom Line:

A book that has an interesting premise and well-developed characters, but that falls short due to its predictability and small, but many, inconsistencies.

My take:

The best part about Silent Child is the character of Emma. She is shown, through actions over the course of the story rather than in just a few narrative paragraphs, to be a very human, very raw person who deals with life because, like in reality, you don’t have any choice but to do so.

You clearly see her growth where she goes from a young, teenaged Mom, to a broken woman, to someone who finds it within herself to do that which is necessary for her survival, and the protection for her family. At the same time, you see the immense stress this causes her as she occasionally breaks down, makes very human mistakes, but moves on to try and do the right thing. In other words, her character is very realistic in its strengths and flaws, and the development of this personality over the course of the book is really well done.

Which is why the few random mentions of pro-feminism and anti-sexism seem so out of place. I have nothing against either of those concepts. But Emma’s story isn’t about that; it is about a parent’s fight for the protection and justice of their child. It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman, she is just a strong person. And Denzil does a great job of depicting this until those obscure moments, which honestly seem like jumping on the slimmest opportunities to toss in a social angle. From a reader’s perspective, it just seemed like unnecessary fluff to an otherwise good character arc.

The premise of the book is very interesting. Unfortunately, the story is just as predictable (at nearly every point of apparent suspense/revelation). The pace of the book is good, but it does seem like an equally effective story could have been told with a few pages reduced. There are sections that seem to go on for no reason.

The storytelling style isn’t as established as many others I’ve read, but by no means does Denzil come across as a novice. In fact, some parts are really well written, while the majority is well above average. The characterization has a similar feel where Emma’s personality is really well-developed, but the others just… hang about… until useful.

The most irksome part, though, is the loose ends. A lot of points brought up during the book seem to go nowhere and are never explained. A large part of this is related to Aiden and his story itself. The book ties up well on the major plot points but could have delved deeper into some smaller aspects (that’s where those extra pages should have been used).

Thrillers place a lot of importance on unpredictability and suspense development. Unfortunately, Silent Child falls incredibly short on both. Yes, you turn the pages out of curiosity, but you’re not compelled to do so. And the twists and climax are altogether too predictable. So, I would recommend that you go for this book only if you’re really out of options for thrillers and crime fiction. There are some great ones out there that’ll probably make for a better read.

Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on Silent Child and this review.

 

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Review: Fool Me Once (By Harlan Coben)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 387 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Maya Stern is no stranger to death. Having served in the army, she’s seen her share of loss. And learned to deal with it. Which is how she manages to bear the pain of having witnessed the death of her husband in a mugging gone wrong. She’s forcing herself to get through one day at a time, fighting against the loss and the nightmares she brought home from the war with a smile on her face for the sake of her two-year-old daughter. But some things are too much even for Maya’s willpower. When she sees her husband on the feed from a secret nanny-cam – feed from a week after his death – she begins to question everything, and everyone. She begins digging to find an answer, but instead finds only more questions. And secrets that go back decades. Everything she’s ever known begins to come under suspicion, and Maya is forced to face the fact that she can trust no one – not even herself. Things simply aren’t what they seem. But is that the result of a conspiracy that goes back years, or the loss of Maya’s own sanity?

The Bottom Line:

A relatively typical crime thriller whose saving grace is its incredible, and unpredictable, ending.

My take:

Fool Me Once has an interesting story that is told with the nearly infallible skill that only an experienced author can possess. Harlan Coben has been around for a while and yet, this is the first book of his that I’ve read. And I can say that the man is, without a doubt, a really good storyteller.

Fool Me Once moves along briskly, and the suspense keeps you turning the pages relentlessly. It is written with the effortlessness that seems so simple, but is probably extremely difficult to achieve. And that translates into a smooth, effortless reading experience too.

The characters are well defined and very human. In fact, they’re human enough to like and dislike at the same time. This is another aspect in which complexity is presented exceptionally well, in seemingly-effortless simplicity. The most enjoyable thing in Fool Me Once is Coben’s skill; I definitely want to read more from him.

As a story, however, it’s pretty average. The premise is interesting, and it unfolds well. But the many twists and turns that were meant to be shocking are quite predictable. That’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable. But at the same time, it leaves the book lacking the quality that gives it an edge, that pushes it to the level of evoking an, “I loved it!”

The one thing that was surely unpredictable though was the end. And that is what takes the book up from 2 stars (read: It was okay), to 3 stars. All in all, Fool Me Once is a very average thriller, but one that deserves to be read for its story-telling finesse and pretty awesome end. Recommended to:

  • fans of crime fiction and thrillers
  • fans of Jeffery Deaver and/or Agatha Christie
  • anyone who wants to read a fast-moving but not heavy crime fiction

Liked Fool Me Once? Or think that another Coben book is better? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

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Review: The Neighbor (By Joseph Souza)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 352 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Leah and her husband, Clay, move from Seattle to Maine along with their eleven-year-old twins so that Clay can fulfill his dream of opening his own brewery. Leah envisions a life where she’s part of a thriving community in a plush neighborhood, surrounded by a loving family, and good friends with whom she can bond and share things large and small. Instead, she gets a husband who’s too busy to ever be around, twin kids who have no friends, and an empty neighborhood which is the result of a housing project abandoned midway. Now, all her hopes of building strong friendship bonds rest on the only other couple in the neighborhood. But Clarissa and Russell Gaines are aloof and uninviting. Leah’s interest in Clarissa begins as a potential friend. But the more the couple stay distant, the more Leah’s interest grows. Until it becomes an obsession that affects every part of her life. Before she can control it, she’s sneaking into her neighbor’s home, taking small objects, and allowing her envy of their elegant lifestyle to grow. Then she finds Clarissa’s diary. As she begins to read through the private pages, she discovers that Clarissa’s life isn’t as comfortable as it seems. Secrets run deep between the couple, secrets that have a direct effect on the mysterious kidnapping of a local college girl. Equally obsessed with the disappearance of the student, Leah finds herself investigating the crime even as she hopes that a solution would help bring Clarissa closer to her. But Leah has her own secrets that she doesn’t want exposed. As she begins to lose herself in her obsession, secrets, reputations, relationships, and even lives begin to come under threat. Yet, Leah pursues, unaware of the fact that things are even stranger than they seem. And that discovering the truth may not give her what she wants. In fact, it may shatter lives forever.

The Bottom Line:

The Neighbor is made slightly interesting with a lot of layers, but they fail to hide the fact that the book is nothing more than the unpleasant story of two whiny, selfish, clueless adults who you just cannot like.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Psychological thriller. As riveting as Gone Girl. Twisted. Page-turner.

These are some of the terms you’d find associated with The Neighbor. I completely agree with the last one, but definitely not the others. In fact, my allegiance lies with those reviews and reviewers who chose to express themselves (while speaking about The Neighbor) with terms like illogical plot, shallow and unlikable characters, and unbelievable actions.

The Neighbor has a lot going on. There’s a missing girl. There’s a lonely housewife who wants some friends with whom she can connect. There’s a murder. There are secrets. There are a whole lot of references to racism and discussion on the topic. There are marital concerns. There’s alcoholism. And there is some BDSM-esque kinkiness tossed in too.

The problem is that all these aspects are just annoying.

To better explain, I need to mention that the book is written from the perspectives of Leah and Clay. And it starts with Leah, who is so dang annoying, saying that she gets “giddy with excitement” when she steps out of the house to good weather. It was actually difficult to continue reading after that start. But a twist thrown at you a couple of pages later gives you hope and keeps you going.

There are innumerable twists in The Neighbor. And that’s the reason you want to know what happens next, the reason you turn page after page. There is a lot of stuff going on, most of which can add interesting elements. But what you can never get away from is the fact that, at its very essence, the story is about two incredibly selfish, annoying, and oddly stupid people – Leah and Clay.

These are two individuals who live life in their own bubble of misunderstanding (regarding each other). They are both alcoholics in denial who are quick to (hypocritically) blame each other. There are a few moments where they seem to show an inkling of self-awareness. Until it’s drowned in their go-to habit of making excuses. All in all, they are incredibly unlikable as human beings, spouses, and parents.

As a result, you don’t really care that anything is happening to them or that they’re facing a problem. You’re more interested in discovering which of the events is a lie, which isn’t, and what’s really going along. The only people you feel for in the book are Leah and Clay’s kids and their dog, and that’s mainly because they are stuck with terrible people for no fault of their own.

Leah and Clay’s relationship and the way the book is told from their perspectives is what makes people draw the similarity to Gone Girl, I think. To be honest, similarities do exist. But the intentional, selfish twistedness of the characters in Gone Girl also made them associable. You could actually envision people like that – those who would do what it took to get what they wanted. It’s what made the book uncomfortably good (check out my review of Gone Girl here for more deets on that!). In The Neighbor, the characters are selfish but too clueless. I mean, seriously – Leah’s only goal in life is, “I want to be Clarissa’s friend.” These are selfish people who are too lost to actually do anything about what they want, except for crib when things do change. And that just makes them annoying, especially in their abrupt bipolarity (seriously, they keep contradicting themselves in consecutive sentences until their motivation, meaning, and drive is completely lost on the reader).

Putting the Gone Girl comparison aside, The Neighbor is just not a likable book. It’s got some suspense and enough storytelling power to keep you turning the pages. But the many social problems it addresses seem to just be layers on an otherwise dry story of two not-nice people.

So should you read The Neighbor? I’d say give it a pass. There are other psychological thrillers out there that have real depth in their stories, that go deep into the chaos that is the human mind and what it can make one do. Try one of them instead. If you still want to give The Neighbor a shot – it releases on 24th April 2018.

Want to share your thoughts on The Neighbor? Drop a comment below!

– Rishika

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