Fifteen-year-old Ariella Benton, nicknamed Ella, finds herself in Hoboken, New Jersey, at the mercy of her own ideas regarding her long-dead father, her mom’s new husband, her love for cats, a new love interest, a belief in the supernatural, and the stigma of mental illness.
All of these story elements become a psychological-thriller Mobius strip with the appearance and then encroaching insinuation of the “tall and blond” “Beautiful Boy” she meets at the mall—and who turns out to be her future stepbrother, Blake. If the incestuous undertones don’t creep readers out, Crystal Kite winner Ventresca (Pandemic, 2014) ploddingly layers on Blake’s manipulations, from his constant gaslighting of Ella—with the participation of Ella’s best friend and the aforementioned love interest)—to bloody and muddy fingerprints on mirrors and walls and other, far nastier, deeds. Does sociopathic Blake get away with his dastardliness toward his white (by inference) family? The author tries to build the suspense and empathy, but it falls flat due to the grating characterization of Ella herself—as well as the unkind characterization of sociopathy. The lesson is that, at best, Blake, with his mental illness, cannot be incorporated into family life but needs to disappear, optimally of his own accord.
The stereotypical depiction of sociopathy, that hoary trope, leaves a bad taste.(further reading) (Thriller. 14-18)