A psychological thriller promises scandal and drama.
This novel seeks to intertwine two narratives. One is about white 17-year-old Rosie Velvitt and her physically and emotionally threatening home life, which pushes her to extremes (such as booking johns for her best friend, who turns tricks for cash) in order to find a birth mother she thought long dead. The other is about Rosie and her best friend, Mary Perkins (also white), and the truth about why their relationship seems to revolve around instances of explicit sexual violence. While the former enjoys rich development in a nuanced, first-person consideration of family, friendship, and the breaking points for both, the latter feels like a trauma-exploitative gimmick and rests on an implausible (though not impossible) manifestation of mental illness. In what seems to be a collision between Brock Cole’s The Facts Speak for Themselves (1997) and Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender (2006), the dropped hints and whiplash-inducing twist ending throw the entirety of the narrative prior to the last page into new light. While this may hit the mark for some Shyamalan-enthusiast readers, it will disappoint those less entertained by ugly tropes around mental health stigma or simply expecting an intentional inclusion of mental disability to be more thoughtful than a repellent plot twist.
Several of the right ingredients languish under infelicitous execution. (Thriller. 14-17)