Sometimes a book gets packaged as something it’s not, which always does it a disservice since the reader is expecting something different than they get. They may love the new, surprise story or they may be annoyed that what they hoped for wasn’t within the book they picked up.
I’m somewhere in the middle with this novel. We Were Restless Things is about a mysterious lake in the woods that only appears to teenager Noemi Amato and occasionally to her friends once Noemi has taken them there. The previous summer, Noemi’s friend Link was found dead in the woods, his lungs filled with water but, as far as anyone else but Noemi knows, nowhere near a lake or a stream. It’s a strange mystery.
This novel isn’t really about answering that mystery. We get the answer to what happened to Link but it comes fairly early. The story seems a bit unfocused at times, perhaps unsure what it really wants to be. The novel is clearly in love with main character Noemi, a creative photographer-student who all other characters unreservedly are drawn to. Magical things seem to happen, drawn from her dreams and imagination.
Noemi’s mother’s boyfriend’s son, Jonas, comes to live with them in their converted bed-and-breakfast. Jonas is the same age as Noemi and they begin a relationship. This relationship, and Noemi’s character, is the more interesting part of the novel, outside of some of the dreamy imagery around the lake. While Noemi is romantically attracted to Jonas, she’s asexual, and she’s trying to learn what exactly that means for her and for her relationships. I haven’t seen many asexual characters who identify so in literature and it was nice to see that representation.
There were elements that frustrated me. Things that would terrify anyone happen to the teens and and then they go back to their regular lives, more than once, relatively unscathed and more interested in if someone likes them than the scary, dangerous thing they went through that would consume a normal person’s thoughts. Noemi continues to take her friends to a place she knows is dangerous without seeming to have any real concerns for the potential ramifications. These are the types of things that, in a horror movie, would make me yell Nooooo! at the screen and shake my head at the foolishness.
The first and second halves seemed almost like different books, with the first being more plot-driven and the second more an exploration of relationships and the need for different types of connection. I can’t help but wonder if I had expected something different if I would have enjoyed it a bit more. For those who enjoy dreamy fiction with speculative elements and don’t go into the book expecting a fantasy murder mystery, this book may be perfect for you.