I didn’t want to do this…I thought I would enjoy this book…it had raving reviews…but nope, yet again I found a book published in 2018 that I dislike. Okay, let’s get into this
Release date: January 9, 2018
Plot Synopsis: In 1986, twelve-year-old Eddie Adams and his four friends (maybe five, I couldn’t really be bothered to keep track) play with chalk, creating them into figures to send secret messages to each other. It is all a game, until Eddie stumbles upon a mutilated body in the forest and finds a chalk figure beside the body. In 2016, Eddie is now a middle-aged man, and his past is about to catch up to him as he receives freaky notes of his past and an old friend turns up dead.
By the description, I was expecting much more of a thriller/horror, but instead this book seemed much more of a coming-of-age story combined with political commentary (I’ll get into that later). The organization itself was well done. The story switched per chapter from 1986 Eddie’s perspective to 2016 Eddie’s perspective. Unlike most stories where this happens, this book does a good job of balancing important plot points in both. The two sides complimented each other quite well.
…I’m really struggling to find things I liked about this book. The suspense was good. The mystery seemed a little obvious and I figured out most of the solutions way before the characters, but like I said earlier, the emphasis on this book seemed to be more about Eddie growing up and less about the mystery itself.
One big thing: if you are not a fan of lots of swearing, stay away from this book. While I’m not averse to swearing in literature, though I rarely swear myself, this book is so rift with it that I found myself skipping a lot of these words in annoyance. This is not a big problem I had with the book, but if you aren’t fond of dirty language, don’t bother reading this.
Now, let me get to the biggest problem I had with this book: the political agenda. Of course, every book is going to have some politics in it, because we as writers are biased. But this book is so permeated by it that my liking for the suspense part of the story was ruined.
Christians are all evil…pro-life protestors are mean…all Atheists are good even if they do things like steal from stores and have affairs with minors…police are all corrupt and heartless…any type of morality is downplayed…
And yet somehow, in this story, we are still supposed to believe murder is wrong? I will get more into this point in my spoiler section, but I just felt like I was reading propaganda instead of reality. I get it some Christians are bad and every situation is different, but this author paints everything as black and white. She makes allowances for some people for doing horrible things that she paints as be terrible when Christians do them.
If it was done more subtlety, I wouldn’t have minded, but this is supposed to be a gritty thriller, and instead it felt like shallow and biased morality commentary.
Another problem I had was with the characters. Eddie’s friends just blended together. Even by the end of the book, I only differentiated them by their names. I didn’t feel like I learned more about them as people. Eddie was interesting, especially his dark side (more in a spoiler section), but none of the other characters stood out to me as more than martyrs vs. villains (those people who were wrongfully accused vs. those people who were the badguys). Chloe could have been interesting, but I never felt we learned much about her besides that she drank. What were her motivations for everything she does? None of it seemed to matter to the author and thus it didn’t matter to me.
I really wanted to like this book, because there were a lot of good concepts, like the use of the chalk men, which were fascinating, but I just couldn’t.
Now, if I haven’t disparaged this book enough, let’s go onto the spoiler section.
I really liked how Eddie began seeing the ghosts of the people who had died. It hinted to Eddie being off his rocker early on. That and I loved the twist at the end that he had kept the girl’s head all these years. Truly creepy!
Another thing I enjoyed was Eddie’s nicknames for everyone. His friends…the victim. It gave an interest to otherwise underdeveloped characters.
I also enjoyed the twist with Chloe’s identity. For most of the story, she’s simply a housemate—or flat mate since this is England—with Eddie as an adult, but then we find out she is also involved with the mystery. I really enjoyed that part.
Now, from good things to bad things. My main issue with this book is the hypocrisy, which ironically the characters attribute to the minister (and villain of the story). Let me give you two situations. First, a Christian minister takes advantage of his seventeen-year-old follower and impregnates her. I think we’d all agree that that is a despicable man. Second example, a non-religious teacher befriends a seventeen-year-old and has sex with her. I would say that he is just as bad as the first man. They both took advantage of a young woman.
And yet, in this book, Reverend Martin and Mr. Halloran do the same horrible action, and yet Mr. Halloran is portrayed as a victim in love and Martin as a seducer and monster and their characters are made out to be so. Why? Why did the author feel the need to make certain bad acts fine (like Eddie stealing from the store) and others horrible (like Sean bullying people)? Admittedly, all the character portrayed as evil escalate their behavior, but that doesn’t justify saying one is bad and one is good before they escalated.
The choices in life we make will have repercussions, whether we realize it or not. And yet this book paints certain people who do bad things as good and others who do the same things as bad. Eddie’s mother working at an abortion clinic is good, but protestors are all bad.
I’m not saying this necessarily because these views are extremely leftist. I would say the same thing if the views were incredibly rightist as well. And if you ascribe to all these beliefs already, that’s fine. It just doesn’t make for an enjoyable read if beliefs are thrust down your throat…whether you believe them or not.
I’m not sure if I’m making any sense at all, but I felt that the morality and political messages ruined the mystery for me, which is a pity because I thought the mystery itself was excellent. I don’t want to be too hard on this author, because this is only her first book, but it was so frustrating to read a book which could have been good, but wasn’t.
If you saw this book as completely different, I respect your opinion. Maybe I am just so sick of political and moral commentary that I just couldn’t handle reading another book about it. So, I confess, some of these criticisms are just me.
Since I didn’t post a book review last week, I’ll be posting two this week to catch up. So look for another book review (hopefully a more positive one) this Wednesday. Make sure to follow my blog for more madness, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,