I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Set in an alternate universe, the protagonist, a self deprecating college student named Jen, is forced into a world where nighttime curfews are cruel, and monsters are real. Plagued with mental illness from birth, her twin brother was the only one who ever understood her. Since his engagement to a vain, dimwitted valley girl, he’s been paying Jen less and less of the attention she desperately craves.
Her journey begins when she attempts to take her own life on New Year’s Eve after a final spat with her brother, landing her on a deserted highway just outside of hell instead of falling to her death. With the ghostly image of her empty apartment building fading into the night, she know’s that the only way is forward.
She’s immediately greeted by a quirky engineer named Hopper, who is quick to gloss over the importance of getting out of sight; so quick it leaves Jen in another terrible spot. Separated from Hopper and captured by Collectors, she wakes in a nightmare to which there seems to be no escape, The Mill. Hunted by unnatural creatures in this dank underground, she begins to discover the importance of life, and the err of her mistake.
As a writer, I dislike giving harsh reviews. I know exactly how traumatizing a low rating is. We live and die by those numbers–at least our egos do, so I always try to find the good in what I’ve been sent to review. However, I had so many issues with this novel that I find myself thinking only the worst.
Initially, the protagonist’s neediness bothered me. I realize she is supposed to have “issues,” but I really didn’t see enough pre-action to see those issues. I had to rely on just the characters own assurances of her problems, and it came off as needy and pathetic with inconsistent, unrealistic actions. For instance, Jen is left completely alone on Christmas, no calls, no invites, nothing, while her brother/roommate celebrates his new engagement with a girl Jen mentions being jealous over (presenting an entirely different type of problem which is never fully explored). Jen then destroys her phone over a last-minute New Year’s party her brother plans, yet she decorates for the party, even purchasing the alcohol. What? Then, minutes later, she blindly accepts a “parallel universe” explanation from a goggle-sporting thief before jumping on the thief’s bike and motoring away from her near death fall. Repeatedly, I felt her actions weren’t realistic and kept waiting for the novel to be some sort of weird dream.
While the story is supposed to be set in Chicago, the characters often sound British, Victorian even. I thought David Copperfield might show up any minute. One character even uses the word “egad”! The prose sounded British as well with terms like “meters” and “torch”. Why not just set the story in England? Why create this farcical, American character?
I wanted to like this one, but it just didn’t happen.