Ryan is a 17-year-old adrenaline junkie who thrives on the fear others usually wither beneath and who spends her summer days jumping from planes at her parents’ sky-diving center in the Mojave Desert.
Narrator Ryan feels her lack of fear is because she’s special and lives life on a different pulse than most, but after a near-fatal experience while on LSD, Ryan loses her inner thrill-seeker. With her relationships and sanity falling apart, Ryan finds herself having to fight the girl she has become, to fight for her life. Do the eyes that haunt her belong to one of the duppies her obeah-practicing grandmother tries to ward off, or is it psychosis? Although Ryan sees a psychiatrist, she is never definitively diagnosed, nor is there any significant attempt to mitigate the text’s unfortunate overuse of the term “crazy.” Clark both exoticizes and generalizes the biracial teen’s heritage, locating her beauty in her “combination of the smooth, dark rum of [the] Caribbean and the imperious determination of…white clouds marching over the land” and referring to Caribbean or island skin and accents with little acknowledgment of the diversity of the region. Moreover, the conflation of obeah and voodoo displays a distressing disregard for cultural accuracy. Add in stilted, sometimes jumbled prose, and the entire novel feels like a haphazard puzzle with pieces that do not fit together, especially evident in the inconsistent, sometimes downright flaky relationships.
A psychological thriller that’s not. (Thriller. 14-18)