*Trigger Warnings: sexual violence, physical violence, gun violence*
So I picked this one up because no one could seemingly stop talking about it. I heard very little, except that it was funny and twisty and dark in the ways that Gone Girl was. I was in need of a beach read for a weekend down the shore (translation: going to the beach, as New Jersey beaches are referred to as “the shore”) and so I grabbed this one from a local bookshop.
I started reading it at approximately 4pm. Interruptions were allowed for watching the news with my mother, the daily Jeopardy viewing and the walk for ice cream which is part of shore traditions in our family. I finished the book at 10pm. I read through dinner, I read through her viewing of NCIS, I read until the book was finished because it was not one which could be picked up and put down at leisure.
This one grabs you from the word go and refuses to let you away from it. Even days later, as I write this review, the book has not really left me. Even though I’m not fully sure how to summarize it or even how to discuss it.
Let me try.
First of all, this is a violent book. Violent things happen to Ani – the narrator – and she does violence to others. There are episodes of physical and sexual violence in this book, periods of emotional and verbal abuse. It’s told partially in contemporary time and partially through narratives of Ani’s high school life. The acts of violence were primarily conducted then, but the repercussions of them are spiraling through Ani’s current life.
From the jacket, we know she went to a prestigious and infamous prep school in the Main Line section of Philadelphia. We know she was not a Main Line family and that that caused tension. Since leaving that school, she has done everything in her power to make herself into someone that would live on the Main Line. I think there’s enough context clues in the story for anyone to pick up on this, but as someone who grew up in the Philadelphia area (not Main Line, though, let’s be clear), I read the layers in all the comments.
The overall narrative – which I will not get into more detail about because I do not know how without spoiling anything of how this book is crafted – is arresting. As I said above, this book will not allow itself to be put down. You know Ani is an unreliable narrator but you’re not really sure why. You know she’s fake but you don’t really know why. The book promises answers and delivers on them, but the ride to get there is spellbinding.
I know lots and lots of people who would hate this book because they would hate Ani and it’s not like I’m looking to be her bestie or anything, but her head was a fascinating one to live in for a few hundred pages. Recommended for anyone the trigger warnings don’t bother.
As Ani is constantly on diets throughout the book to get below a size 2 (don’t get me started), the only drink she allows herself is a vodka and slimline tonic. I find those to be pretty gross, so I’ll substitute it out for a gin and slimline.
- RAINN: If you have ever been involved in an act of assault, know you are not alone. The people at RAINN are there to listen and get you any help you may need to deal with the aftermath of the event
- Other novels involving violence in schools
- Adults surviving childhood abuse
I bought a copy of this book from my local bookstore and promptly donated it to Better World Books.