Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed the Stephanie Kuehn's hard hitting debut novel, Charm and Strange, which won the Morris Award. When I saw her latest book on Netgalley, I was eager to read it. Please note this review is based on the advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie. Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Review: Like her debut novel, Kuehn once again explores childhood trauma, mental illness, and the slipperiness of memory in her latest taut psychological thriller. Jamie suffers from anxiety and idiopathic cataplexy (unexplained numbness) when he learns that his volatile older sister Cate has been released from juvie. This isn't the first time Jamie's gone numb, physically and emotionally; his cataplexy first started two years ago when he heard about the barn fire Cate was later convicted of setting, and he has only fragments of memories from the time surrounding the fire and from his childhood prior to their young single mother's murder. It is clear early on that Jamie is an unreliable narrator as his flashbacks about his mother's death, the fire, and Cate's arrest don't match up to what truly happened. The reader just doesn't know how much to believe Jamie and our emotion of empathy to his struggles fluctuate throughout the novel.
  While reading this book I was surprise to see an unexpected and dark side of Jamie who is manipulative and prone to violent rage, which is completely different from his "good boy" image when we first meet him. It is almost as if he has a split personality. Kuehn maintains suspense and tension as the reader tries to figure out how much Jamie is deep in self-deception and the real role that his sister has played. Complicit ensnares readers from the first page with its surprising twists and revelations as the plot slowly unwinds. This is a smart thriller that I think many readers will enjoy.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Choker by Elizabeth Emma Woods, Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Oooo I love unreliable narrators Rummanah! It's always so much fun to be constantly questioning them and wondering if we can believe what they're seeing/hearing/remembering or if it's all an illusion of some kind. Love the cover on this one too, it's beautifully haunting:)

  2. Oh a solid, tight psychological thriller. I need to check this out.

  3. Dark thriller... I so need to check this one out. I love that it was unexpected and kept you reading. Thanks for the rec!

  4. Unknown Says:

    A smart thriller, you say? I like the sound of that! I wasn't at all drawn in by the cover, and never read more about it until now, hehe. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! That unreliable narrator has me excited. Great review, Rummanah!

  5. That's really interesting. Particularly interesting that it's a girl who's the bad one and a boy who's traumatized. Different than usual. Although it sounds like his violent outbursts put him back in the stereotypical boy range.

  6. This seems to be an emotionally challenging read. I do love a good unrealiable narrator. I'm very surprised that the author chose to portray a character with such a strong darker side, but I'm also very intrigued by it. This definitely sounds different. It's likely somehting I'll enjoy very much.

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