Author – J.P. Pomare
Genre – Thriller/suspense
Pages – 396
POV – First person, present tense
Recommended for – For people interested in Thriller or suspense novels with an unreliable narrator. A younger audience could be interested as the main character is a teenager and goes through some typical teenage themes. Young relationships – friendship and romance. Insecurity. A little on consent, trust, inappropriate or abusive relationships.
After a major unknown event Evie (Kate) is brought to another country, to live in the middle of nowhere with a man she isn’t entirely sure is helping or hurting her. Evie sorts through her fractured memories to piece together why exactly she’s there, who is after her, and what exactly is the true motivation of Jim, the man who claims to be protecting her. With little to no freedom, little access to the outside world and little personal items, Evie struggles through the painful memories of the past to uncover the mysteries laid out. A journey of survival at first.
There is an urgentness in the writing straight off the bat. Pomare cleverly weaving trails everywhere, leaving you double taking everyone. Is Evie being paranoid or are the other characters revealing ulterior motives? He helps this immensely by laying out the dynamics from the first page. Evie is small, weak and vulnerable. Jim is big, powerful and in control. But also leaving a little space in the wording so you could rethink all your presumptions. The dynamics and style working well to help us sympathise and relate to Kate but also keeping up tension and paranoia. What do we read into? Kate’s perspective and interpretation of Jim and herself or the words and actions of the others around her? Jim is controlling but does he have a reason? Is he menacing and calculated or anxious and grappling for ways to keep Evie above water?
That uncertainty drives you along with Kate’s frame of mind. The mood invoked dark and visceral, while you turn the pages starved for information. A roller coaster of changing theories about the real truth at the heart of everything. The “Before” and “After” chapters working well to unfold the story while keeping the mystery and stakes high. Evie’s unreliability becoming more and more evident as the chapters go on.
The setting ties in well with this theme of the book. The small town and its population easily seen in two possible scopes. As a plot device it leaves Evie stranded. No one to go to, nowhere to run. She cannot trust anyone. The place as much of a stranger to her as her own memories. Trust seems to be a major theme. Evie cannot know who to trust, not even herself. In the before sections she learns those who she trusts disappoint her. Unveiling themselves as people capable of hurting her.
Mental health and the question of the validity of memories are major themes throughout. The effect of trauma, not necessarily as a wider discussion but a personal look at Evie and Jim’s specific experiences and those around them. While you do want to keep reading to get those answers, points of the book did get a bit mundane. Following day to day things that lead to very small accumulative morsels of hints and information. It becomes a sort of calm tension, the sense of something not quite right looming, despite the drag, was enjoyable.
The ending payoff is worth it. I enjoyed the reversal of feelings about the main characters. Victim and victimiser in truth not what we imagined.
4/5 – A suspenseful, dark and dread filled read about the fallibility of memory, the ways in which our memory can alter our perception from the truth and the different natures of people not always immediately evident.