Three Pixies Press 2014
(Click here to read my A+ review of Kristin Halbrook’s debut, Nobody But Us)
Katie is determined to hold together her perfect life, perfect boyfriend, perfect position in her sorority, even when her best friend is murdered and discovered in her teacher’s closet. She’s also determined to get to the bottom of what happened to her, even if it means enlisting the help of Josh, the ex who ties her to less-than-perfect times.
Such is the unfathomable depth of my fangirling for Kristin Halbrook, it can compel me to buy and read a book with a painfully vague, generic, dramatic-sounding one-word title and a similarly generic pair of pretty, backlit people kissing on the cover.
Seriously, that’s some powerful stuff.
To a large extent, this book belongs behind that cover. In all fairness, I know there are people who would be drawn in by said cover, and those people likely wouldn’t be bored by the obligatory descriptions of how sex is accomplished or gagged by the melodrama of the romantic dialogue. I’m not that person, so I’ll leave those parts alone.
The bigger problems are of the show-don’t-tell variety. Katie’s issues are over-explained in psychiatric detail without truly being felt. Similarly, her relationship with Josh goes back to a childhood friendship that we’re told about as an explanation for his more than angelic patience with her, yet we only ever see Katie at her worst with Josh for the vast majority of the text. Even a few small glimpses of Katie's better side and their better moments together would have gone a long way to ameliorate the general feeling that Katie spends most of the book making excuses to us for why she's so horrible and why Josh isn’t entirely crazy for being attached to her, excuses that we can only swallow for so long without some kind of proof.
The mystery, though largely overshadowed by the romance, accelerates into a tightly twisting spiral of a finale. Just when it begins to feel as predictable as Katie and Josh's drawn-out love story, it takes a fresh turn. The ultimate villain, whom I shall not spoil, is exactly the right kind of gut-punch, and the love triangle, in spite of Katie's lack of appeal, has a good heartbreaker moment.
The interludes of experimental, stylized prose are the true stars of the book, freshly and poignantly illustrating Katie's shock and slow, sporadic processing of the loss of her friend. In spite of the overarching problems, these moments of intrigue or artfully painted feeling are thickly sprinkled through the short narrative, making for a quick and overall enjoyable read.
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