A young woman is inexplicably compelled to stay with her terminally ill childhood best friend during his last days, despite years of estrangement that resulted after he sliced open her cheek with a switchblade.
Cadence and Sphinx’s relationship was preordained by their mothers, also long-standing best friends, who fantasized as young girls that they would grow up to have children who’d marry as adults. Though Sphinx is drawn to Cadence’s intelligence and creativity, she is also increasingly aware that he has a personality disorder. After he cuts Sphinx, he is moved away to England, and it’s only when he’s diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager that Sphinx and her mother travel to see him again and unbelievably, Sphinx persuades her mother to let her stay. Cadence is frequently described as “shining,” but it may be hard for readers to understand his power over Sphinx—their interactions are notable for his cruel outbursts rather than any charisma. Sphinx is likewise underdeveloped; she seems to exist mainly in reaction to Cadence and routinely dismisses herself: “Empathy, perhaps, was my only talent—I never showed very much promise in any other areas.”
In the end, this sensational and troubling story about a young woman’s relationship with a sociopath lacks emotional resonance. (Fiction. 14-18)