A tight group of college friends fight to keep their relationships from splintering under the pressure of secrets in Brockman’s debut.
When Malin’s parents drop her off at Hawthorne College, her father whispers one word of advice: Pretend. Malin has always been quiet and introverted, but this self-imposed separation has given her ample opportunity to hone her perception and observation skills. Deciding to branch out and find some friends in order to keep her parents happy, Malin chooses Ruby to be her best friend. Pretty, outgoing, and athletic, Ruby is Malin’s way into a small but insular group: Gemma, Max, John, and Khaled. During freshman year, the six survive the usual college shenanigans—wild parties, drunken hookups, last-minute study binges—before moving in together. But Malin can see the cracks in their friendships from the beginning: how John bullies Max; how Gemma drinks herself into oblivion to avoid her loneliness; how Khaled needs constant reassurance; how Ruby bows to John's every wish. And then there’s Malin herself, top student on campus, the silent witness to so many conflicts. All six of the friends have secrets. By senior year, each of them is buckling under the twin pressures of loyalty and knowledge. Will they make it out alive? By telling parts of the story out of sequence, Brockman successfully builds each character in fragments, preventing us from seeing the full context until close to the end. The college-centered plot is reminiscent of many novels that have come before about quirky kids forming a family of sorts only to destroy each other—Tana French’s The Likeness, Donna Tartt's The Secret History—but the development of Malin as a narrator is truly inspired. While French and Tartt use the outsider-as-narrator to further emphasize the group's isolation and the narrator's failure to find true acceptance, Brockman's Malin draws riveting attention to humankind's vulnerability to evil. She is a shadowy figure; an unreliable narrator we get to know through subtle hints and slanted comments in addition to flashbacks.
A truly chilling thriller with a twist so quiet, you never hear it coming.