Posts Tagged ‘disturbing’

After a traumatic childhood experience, best friends Jennifer and Sarah create the Never List – a list of things which they must never do, in order to stay safe.  Despite all their good intentions however, they are abducted, and thrown into a three year long nightmare.  The book opens thirteen years later, with Sarah still suffering from the effects of the ordeal.  She never leaves her apartment, never has physical contact with people, works from home, and has no friends.  However, the man who abducted her and Jennifer is being considered for parole, and Sarah needs to make sure that he doesn’t get it, so she decides that the only way to secure her future is to revisit her past.

When I started this book, I thought I was going to really enjoy it.  The first few chapters throw you headlong into the story at break-neck speed, and it seemed to pave the way for an intense psychological thriller.  In fairness, it does keep up the quick pace all the way through, with plenty of twists and turns, and in many ways, was a quick and easy read.

Unfortunately though, I ended up feeling a bit frustrated by both the story, and the main character.  At the beginning of the story, Sarah is suffering from severe paranoia and phobias, but she seems to overcome them so quickly, that it is just not believable.  To assume that a woman who is too scared to even leave her apartment (even when she orders food in, the doorman to the apartments has to bring it to her, rather than the usual delivery person) is suddenly feel able to drive miles, and jump on planes, all in a matter of a few days, just felt inconsistent.  In fact, most of the main characters seemed to act in an entirely inconsistent manner.

I had my suspicions about what was going to happen at the end, but there were a couple of twists I didn’t anticipate – and it’s always nice to be surprised when reading a thriller – but I did feel that the final denouement was a bit tangled up, involving a few characters that didn’t really serve much purpose in the story.

The book did have some good points and there were some genuinely tense moments (and it’s certainly had some rave reviews) but I think it was probably just not the book for me, with some of the themes, such as torture and rape, feeling particularly disturbing.


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Brenda and Sherilyn never felt like they fitted in anywhere until they met each other.  They always believed that no-one cared about them, or barely even noticed them, but when they first see each other, a instant bond is formed which is so strong that nobody can come between them – not even their own child. They have a daughter, but resent her intrusion into their lives so much that they take horrific measures to get rid of her.

There are no spoilers in this review, as it becomes obviously early on in this book that the Gutteridges have murdered their child in the most stomach churning fashion, and this book takes the reader through the circumstances leading up to the crime, their arrest and trial.  It is narrated by several characters, including the neighbour who can’t help wondering if she should have done something sooner; the harassed social worker who blames herself for not being more thorough; the police officer who stumbles upon the scene of the crime; Brenda and Sherilyn themselves, and their families.

The writing is, on the whole, excellent.  Despite there being a large number of narrators, each one has their own distinct voice, and their stories really drew me in.  They reflected the horror that we all feel when we read about such crimes and the bewilderment at how anybody could do such a thing.  The first half of the book was more interesting to me, but the story did have me gripped throughout.  There was one aspect which I found difficult to believe – this being the idea that Brendan and Sherilyn were so ‘in tune’ with each other that their minds became one, even when incarcerated separately.  This was probably the only flaw in the book, although for other readers, it may serve to enhance the writing.

So, would I recommend it?  In all honesty, I would hesitate to do so.  As a piece of terrific and gripping writing, I definitely would, but make no mistake – this is a truly disturbing piece of writing, which plays on people’s most basic fears.  Definitely a book which makes a serious impact.

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Micka is a 10 year old boy, who has a hard life to say the least.  His mother can’t be bothered with looking after him, and takes no interest in his education, his father is nowhere to be seen, and at least one of his two older brothers is frequently in prison and physically abuses Micka when he’s at home.

He soon becomes friends with Laurie, a new boy at his school.  Laurie may come from a better background, but his parents are splitting up, and while his mother behaves irrationally, his father is emotionally distant.

Laurie has a vivid imagination, and dreams of cruelty and magic, and as Micka is pulled into his world, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred until both boys find themselves on a seemingly inevitable course towards a horrifying conclusion…

This book was amazingly well written.  It is narrated by Micka and Laurie in turn; in the proof copy I read, each narrator is distinguished by a different font.  However, the difference between the language which the two boys used also distinguished them from each other.

It is certainly a disturbing book to read, which was expected as the book was apparently informed by the Mary Bell and Jamie Bulger cases.  Before we even get to the troubling ending of the story, there are descriptions of physical abuse in the home and cruelty to animals.  However, one of the hardest parts to stomach was the reasoning behind the boys’ actions.

I thought the characterisation of the two boys was excellent.  Micka seemed like an innocent child stranded in a violent world, whereas Laurie was by far the colder and more calculating of the two.

Overall, this is a quick read, but certainly one that will linger in the memory.  Highly recommended – but perhaps not for readers of a nervous disposition.


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Stephanie (Stevie) Searle is a young girl when her father dies, and years later is the driver in a car accident when her mother dies. And Stevie herself almost died, which took her to a dark room where she meets everybody she has ever offended or slighted, all waiting for her after she dies. She is brought back to life, but this is neither the first nor last time she will visit her dark room. She becomes obsessed with finding out what people see in their own dark room just before they die, and eventually employs her own methods to enable her to find out. Throughout the story her own family history is uncovered leading her to realise things that she had never had any idea about.

Stevie – who is the narrator – is not a pleasant person – she is deliberately rude to her brother and his wife, she has a huge pile of manure on her lawn, and she terrifies children with tales of death and depravity. But it is her obsession with what lies beyond life that makes her really dangerous.

This book is certainly compelling and hard to put down. I raced through it, but I don’t know if I can say that I enjoyed it. Rarely has there been a main character who is so utterly dislikable, and I find it hard to empathise with a narrator who truly seems to have no redeeming features whatsoever.

The writing is pacy and the story never gets boring. However, the narrative did sometimes become a little confusing – this may of course be because of Stevie’s unreliability as the teller of the tale.

Overall, I would definitely read more by this author – I would recommend this book, but if you get squeamish easily, this might not be one for you.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Alex and his three friends’ typical activities at night consist of rape, robbery and violence. When this finally spills over into murder, the Police catch up with Alex.  He is imprisoned, and subsequently subjected to a form of mind control, which means that he can be returned to society, with no risk to others around him.

Set in an ambiguous and not-too-distant future (although it is worth remembering that the book was written in 1963), the book is written in ‘Nadsat’ – a form of teenage slang used by Alex (the narrator) and his peers.

If there is one book which I think everybody should read, this would be it.  I first read it about 20 years ago, and thought it was due for a re-read.  I appreciated it more second time around.

The nadsat language has a dual role here – it firmly entrenches Alex into his own culture (none of the adults or authority figures in the book use it), and also makes the violence less graphic, meaning that the book is disturbing because of it’s message and not the violence contained within the pages.

This is a book which raises questions of ethics:  Is a man who chooses to be bad better than a man who is forced to do good?  Is it okay to take away individual choice for the good of society? Does it do any good to only treat the symptoms of a problem, and not the cause?

Despite the violence and disrespect for authority which is shown by Alex and his gang, the most disturbing aspect of this book is the so-called treatment doled out by medical professionals, and people who are supposed to be good.

The nadsat language may put some people off reading this, but in truth, it is not long before you get used to it.  It is obvious what most words mean, either by their context, or by the words they are obviously derived from (for example, ‘apologies’ becomes appy polly loggies’).

A definitely 5/5 for me, and one that I recommend to anybody with an interest in great literature.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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