Book TW (contains spoilers so highlight to read): fatphobia, self-harm, BDSM, domestic violence, pedophilia (end spoilers)
This book was my Book of the Month selection for July. I rarely choose thrillers from BotM because as any longtime blog-reader can tell you, while I enjoy the process of reading thrillers, I tend to dislike about 90% of them. (Yeah, I have no idea why I enjoy reading them if I dislike them so much, it’s weird and irrational, but there you go.) It’s better to get thrillers through the library, so I’m not spending money on books I might not enjoy. But the other BotM selections this month weren’t great, and this one’s Sri Lankan setting intrigued me. Still. I should have just put this one on my to-investigate list and gotten it from the library. I really didn’t find anything redeeming about this one, and if I hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t have read it all the way through.
Apologies in advance for a review of nothing but negatives (for me, anyway). Feel free to skip.
My main problem with the book is the primary narrator, Amaya. She has no personality. Instead, she has a few quirks – self-harm, OCD-like obsession with numbers, constantly visualizing gruesome deaths of those around her. The quirks didn’t make up a personality, though – they felt like checkmarks on a list, attached to a fictional character with no other defining features. The rest of the cast is fairly flat as well, but none as much as Amaya.
Unfortunately, the reason I chose the book – the setting – seemed equally flat and ethereal. I never got the sense of actually experiencing Sri Lanka, which was a disappointment. The last thriller I read, Breathless, took place in the Himalayans, and it was enormously evocative, using all senses to really put the reader right into that world. That’s what I was hoping for here, but instead, it felt as immersive as watching a TV show about the area, skewed for American audiences. It was over the top, with all the cliches and tropes you’d expect, when I wanted a vicarious experience of the true life and culture, from an author who grew up there.
Now add to all that the fat-shaming, the predictable plot, the weird obsession with Instagram in an age-group that generally feels like Instagram is fake (and are leaving it in droves), and the lack of any decent human beings anywhere? Like I said before, I never would have read this book to the end had I got it from the library. (Probably the whole fat-shaming ride of Amaya’s with her cousin when she gets to Sri Lanka would have been the end for me.) I always try to find something to recommend a book, and there’s no doubt that many people would probably love it and find it engaging – just not me. Take that with a grain of salt, though. I did start this review by saying that I dislike 90% of the thrillers I read…