CBR11BINGO Square: Cannonballer Says – I read this book because Bea Pants’ Review struck my interest!
I tend to post reviews in fits and bursts, so I’m not as active on the CBR11 page as I had hoped. When I post my reviews, I try and look around at recent reviews, both for curiosity and to get some ideas for my TBR pile. This sometimes leads to hopscotching around to previous reviews by the same, person etc. I’m not sure exactly how I saw Bea Pants’ review, but after reading it I thought it was a great way to help the rut of the non-fiction/memoir books I had been reading. I knew nothing going in to the book but her review.
I did a hybrid of audiobook and kindle for this book. My phone was on the fritz and I couldn’t reliably pull up the audio, and through my overzealousness of requesting both audio and ebook from the library to make sure I got one, I had both handy. The book opens with the narrator on a car trip with her boyfriend, Jake, to visit Jake’s parents. We start off knowing that the narrator is “thinking of ending things” and she meanders through stories of how they met and what their brief relationship has been like. While things seems mostly like typical relationship tension where things aren’t going well, there is a layer of foreboding that creeps into the narrative, even before we start to see odd behavior. The narrator has been receiving unsettling phone calls (and this is one place that I really disliked the audio book, the voice used for those phone calls was chilling) that she doesn’t understand, but is reluctant to let anyone else know about. There are sections spliced within the story of outside characters describing some horrific event that occurred. This amps up the dread of where this road trip is heading.
When we reach the parents’ house things start to feel very strange. Jake is beginning to act out of sorts and his parents behavior is not quite right. This was when I started to feel like things might turn toward horror. Once they reach the school, I think I motored through the rest of the book with a pit in my stomach wanting to see how this would resolve. I think this is also the point where I realized that I was unlikely to find a resolution that was satisfying to me. I felt really disoriented by what was happening in the story, and things seemed to keep getting more unusual and it was difficult to make sense of what was happening. It all felt very surreal.
Then came the twist. Seemingly out of nowhere, there is a massive disclosure. In film tropes, my pupils would have narrowed to pinholes and there would be shaky cam effects to give a vertigo like feeling. I’m pretty sure I read the end of the book with a scowl on my face. I unreservedly HATED the twist of this book in a visceral way and thought it was cheap. I actually have much deeper feelings on it, but to go into detail would be to spoil it for others.
So, all things said and done, I really liked the way the characters built in the beginning of the book, and the realistic look at the tensions of a relationship that wasn’t working. For the first half of the book, I thought the author did a good job of building tension, and a real sense of discomfort, as you read, without letting you know exactly why you were feeling that way. He also managed to do that without feeling emotionally manipulative. But, by the time we got to the parents’ house, it felt like we were slowly moving toward a funhouse mirror, and things stopped making sense. Knowing the resolution, I can see how that could play in a meta way, but I ultimately really really disliked it. So, I’m struggling with how to rate this book. I think the first half or so is a 4-5 star read, the next quarter or so is more like a 2-3 and the ending was a 1 for me. I’m holding it at 3 stars, because I really liked the setup, and I’m know others appreciate where the ending went. It definitely was far more of a rollercoaster than I expected when I started in that tense car ride with Jake and the narrator.