Friday, June 14, 2013

Never Should You Ever

I realize that writing straight reviews is  not my strong suit.  And writing reviews a week after I finished the book--well, I'm out of my element.  But I'm going to give it the old college try and talk a bit about The Never List, by Koethi Zan. 

This is a thriller, and if you're not someone who would read a book whose main character is a survivor of five years chained up in an evil guy's basement with three other girls, then you should just not pick this one up.  It's not terribly explicit in its violence, but the narrator here was kidnapped and tortured and this is a book about that.

Rather, it's a book about the aftermath of that, which I thought was very interesting.  It's ten years later, and the three survivors have gone in very different directions--one is living a quiet, peaceful life as a shut-in, one is a polished, shining, wealthy mom whose husband has no idea of her past, and a third is a radical feminist academic.  The fourth, Jennifer, was killed by their captor, though her body was never found.

The lack of a body means that, ten years later, Bad Guy is up for parole, and that's enough to bring Sarah out of her apartment for the first time in five years.  Jennifer had been her best friend, and Sarah wants to finally find her body and lay her memories to rest.

There are some interesting things going on here that really drew me into the book--the first part, about Jennifer and Sarah's childhoods, is told almost as though they were one person.  Everything is "we" and "us."  I almost wondered if it was going to be a story about someone with multiple personalities or some other psychological twist.  This blurring of personal boundaries comes up at other points in the story, and it's interesting when it brings characters together as a team when you might not expect them to be.

Unfortunately, some things don't hang together as well as they might.  It's another example of authorial trust--the beginning was strong and I found myself trusting the author.  But there are some major plot points here that hinge heavily on people making obviously bad moves because they feel "right" or "like something I had to do."  You do not ditch your police protection to do something incredibly dangerous just because you want to be empowered!  You take the police WITH YOU on that trip!  There is no reason at all that you should do that without a SWAT team.

The further in I got, the more of these moments there were, right up until the end, which was unfortunately predictable in its broad strokes, though the details were pretty engaging.  If I'd been willing to suspend my disbelief, or if the author had done just a bit more hand waving regarding why our Paranoid But Intrepid Heroine was doing all this stuff by herself, it might have hung together better.  As it was, I felt like it was the first half of the final draft of the book, followed by the second half of the first draft.

Sigh; Netgalley's going to hate me if I keep ripping on their stuff like this.

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