Somewhat spoilery? If you read this and you haven’t read the book yet, it won’t ruin your life.
This book was really intense. I felt all the feels in a kind of disturbing, uncomfortable way. Why was it uncomfortable, you may ask? There are a lot of reasons:
First, there was a lot of unnecessary sexual content. It wasn’t graphic, but I’ve read American Gods, and nothing I’ve read has even come close to being that graphic, so I don’t know. There was enough of it that it made me feel kind of gross. I guess it was supposed to show that Minna had issues, and I guess it did show that, but there were other ways it could have been done. It’s mentioned several times that Minna goes to therapy, maybe that could have just been emphasized more? Someone could have found an old diary she kept as a teenager in the house and they could look inside and see that she’s very messed up? The ghosts could have been talking about the past and mentioned that Minna has always been a little bit off? Perhaps have the ghosts relate some of her past horrible misdeeds. Those are just a couple possibilities, and I’m sure that there are a lot more ways to show that Minna is messed up without making the readers uncomfortable.
I know that this is an adult book instead of a YA book, but the writing was on the same level as an average YA book, and I feel like it could have been a YA book if there wasn’t so much… stuff. And it shouldn’t be that the difference between a YA book and an adult book is the amount of that kind of stuff. Quite frankly, that isn’t the dividing line between adult and teen.
Another thing that made me feel kind of disturbed and uncomfortable is all the talk of suicide. More specifically, the way they talked about it. One of the ghosts had killed herself, and Trenton thought about it A LOT and tried to kill himself twice. I feel like they didn’t take it as seriously as maybe it should have been taken? Suicide is a really serious thing, but they just talked about it very casually. I don’t want to say that they were making light of it, but that would describe how I feel about it really well. I’m not someone who will freak out because something mentions suicide, but I feel like this just wrote it wrong. Why was Trenton so obsessed with killing himself? Yeah he was unpopular but that’s not a reason to die. It was probably such a big part of his story because the author wanted to show that he was messed up too, but, like I said with Minna, there are a lot of ways to show that someone has issues. Deciding to hang yourself in the basement when your family goes out goes from zero to sixty really freaking fast. Perhaps the casual talk of suicide was meant to show how messed up they were, but it just didn’t read that way.
I can’t think of anything else specific that really bothered me, but the entire book just made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin and kind of anxious. To be fair, I always have anxiety, so it could have partly been my normal anxiety, but the book still made me feel uncomfortable and gross.
Even though I didn’t like some parts of the book, there were some parts I did like.
Each chapter is told from a different point of view, but the ghosts’ chapters are told in a personal narrative and the chapters about the living characters have a narrator. I thought this was really well done and really cool. I’ve read books before where there is a different character narrating each chapter, but this setup was really interesting. It made the ghosts seem more real and it almost made the other characters’ story seem like it was being told by a ghost that hadn’t been introduced into the plotline.
I read most of the book in one sitting and I’m glad I did because I feel like it’s a better experience to read it in a day instead of stretching it out over a week or a month. I think that if you did that something would be lost.
In the end of the book everything was tied together nicely and things that you didn’t even think mattered in the beginning were suddenly very important and it was kind of cool. I do feel that some of it was done too quickly, and suddenly everyone was related, but it wasn’t bad.
The last thing I want to say about the book isn’t good or bad, it just is. At the beginning of the book I got intense We Have Always Lived In The Castle vibes. The further I got in the book the less I got them, and by, say, fifty pages in I wasn’t getting them at all. I really liked We Have Always Lived In The Castle and I was hoping that since I was getting those vibes from this book that it would be kind of similar, but it wasn’t. I wonder now how much this flavored my opinion of the rest of the book. There is no sex, drinking, or talk of suicide in We Have Always Lived in the Castle but the reader is left with no doubt that Merricat and Constance have really big mental issues. Of course, holding any book up to the standard of Jackson is asking much of a writer.
Even though I do have my complaints about it, I kind of liked the book. It was definitely a page turner and even though it gave me uncomfortable feels it was still interesting and I don’t regret reading it.
On my Goodreads it says that I gave it three stars. I feel like I rated it that well because I was kind of still in shock from reading it, but I’m going to leave the rating there because I feel like it’s not unreasonable (even if I was in shock).