30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 3
I am being cursed with three-star reads. The frustrating thing about this one is that for the most part I can’t really pinpoint why it didn’t work for me. So fair warning, this review will probably read like I’m still trying to work that out, because I am. One thing I can say is that after having finished, if this book failed to cohere as a story for me, at least it failed in interesting ways, which isn’t something I thought I would say when I was halfway through and frustrated by how dull it felt. It doesn’t end dull, that’s for sure.
This had such a promising premise. Our main character is Liz, who is finally coming back to her small racist town after being away for years to attend her best friend Mel’s wedding. Ye olde small racist town also has a problem, one that Liz discovers after Mel’s daughter, Caroline (who is biracial), goes missing. Black girls have been going missing in the forest, their hearts missing, for over thirty years. Liz becomes convinced the only way to save Caroline is to find out what happened to those other girls.
I guess I had two main problems with this. Well, three. The last one isn’t so much a problem as it is that I wanted the book to be something it wasn’t. This book gets weird at the end, but it was such a tonal mishmash the book didn’t earn it. This book should have been weird from page one and embraced that weirdness. Instead, we have a book that is dull, and my second problem, that has characters who make decisions that seem both stupid and sometimes only are happening because the plot needs them to, i.e. SPOILERS Liz sleeping with a man she thinks is probably a murderer (the romance in here was nothing but a distraction), and the group of Black women whose daughters/granddaughters, etc. have gone missing treating Liz with so much hostility when she is obviously one of them. A missing goddaughter may not be a missing daughter, but this should have softened them up and it didn’t END SPOILERS.
My biggest problem though was the writing. This book is written in first present tense when in Liz’s POV, and the author did not have enough control to make it work. I’ve said it before and I will continue saying it, do not write in this POV unless you KNOW YOUR SHIT, or it will control you rather than the other way around. First person present washes out character, makes the writer concentrate way too much on the action of what’s going (I do not care that you character opened a door, or pushed back her hair, or did whatever, get back to the story, please), and has a tendency to slide into the overly dramatic/pseudo poetic, which this definitely does (the audio narrator for Liz doesn’t help).
This was made really clear by the fact that the sections that are in another POV (not first person present tense) were far and away the most interesting and compelling parts of the book. The audio narrator was much better for these sections as well, which tell the story of a handful of the missing girls and what happened to them.
Parts of this book were really interesting, and I can see what the author was going for in terms of using the horror/mystery elements of it as a metaphor for racial inequity and racism), it just never gelled together into a cohesive story for me. To be honest, the only reason I finished it is because I couldn’t find any spoilers for it, and I wanted to know what happened in the end. That’s saying something, I guess, because some books you just don’t give a shit if they are bad enough. Also, the ending is bonkers, so it was sort of worth it to push through. I just wish this book had been so much better. I’ll probably check out future books from Erin E. Adams to see if she improves.