Who Are You When No One Is Watching?
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka. (Goodreads)
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I requested this book from NetGalley, I was expecting a full-on whodunit or mystery; the book descriptions did say so and it sounded quite promising and intriguing. Needless to say, I went into it expecting a ‘propulsive’ mystery that would keep me on the edge of my seat, a twisty plot that would have me guessing who the killer is throughout the book.
However, it took me nearly half of the book to realize this book probably isn’t what I was expecting and that I probably should have started this book with a different mindset.
For me, this book is neither ‘mystery’ nor ‘pulsating thriller’; it’s more like accounts of introspective exploration of the three main characters – Cameron, Jade, and Russ. The mystery element is there, of course, and the investigation progress is touched on here and there throughout the book, but it seemed that it merely goes through the motions, I felt the focus of this book is to delineate the darkness in each characters’ mind, a fine line between sanity and insanity, and the reflections of their past and wounds they were inflicted upon.
It is undeniably an understatement to say I was disappointed when the realization dawned on me, I even felt frustrated and wanted to scream – I almost did not finish this book.
That said, however, as soon as the realization clicked in, and as soon as I realized that I needed to change my mindset and look at this book from a different angle, this book started to grow on me. I finally came to appreciate what it is; this book started taking on a new meaning to me.
This book is incredibly slow-pacing; there’s hardly any plot movement until we are well into the story – somewhere around 70% of the book. The clues and foreshadowing are scattered around, yet we only get a tiny droplet of information in each chapter, and that they are not at all explicit enough; it’s got an ambiguous, hazy undertone to it. The story is mainly woven by those three characters’ introspective reflections of their respective past, their relationships either with Lucinda or their loved ones. Some of them are totally inconsequential to the investigation nor the truth that leads to the killer, I sometimes wondered why I had to keep reading such accounts.
The writing is absolutely beautiful. It’s lyrical, hypnotic and very descriptive. Her writing style fits really well with this plot, it consistently made me feel like I was in a thick fog, groping for the exit that leads to the killer.
One thing that had me wondering is the style of narration; Only Jade’s chapters are narrated in the first person and Cameron and Russ’s chapters are told in the third person omniscient. It’s unique, but I didn’t get to figure out why the author chose this writing style when telling a story from three characters’ POVs.
In addition to that, I didn’t find their voices (not technically their ‘voices,’ given the other two characters’ chapters are not in the third person) very distinct. They sounded quite similar, and I didn’t get fully invested in any of the characters.
That said, though, I was really impressed with how strong the writing was when delineating the escalation of Cameron’s voyeurism, Jade’s near-desperate yearning for Zap, how slowly but steadily they get swallowed up in the darkness in their own mind and tormented by it.
Her writing described really well how flawed each character is, and how their thoughts wander around, flashing back and forth between the present and the past. It was really well done, I appreciate that.
The last 20% is such a page-turner. As the revelation of the true killer kicked in, it got really gripping and had me on pins and needles. The intense writing aided the suspense building up, I was totally hooked at this point.
I also liked this book ended on a positive note. The last 20% of the book is totally a redeeming factor for me.
Although I initially disliked this book, feeling betrayed and misled, and I had some issues with this book for some things not being completely wrapped up at the end of the book, leaving some intrigues unanswered and hanging in the air, I am glad that I persevered and powered through the book.
It didn’t blow my mind – certainly not – but I ended up liking this book – to some extent – and I am glad about that.
If you are a fan of such introspective writing style and like books that explore inner turmoil or struggles of the characters, this book is for you.
But if you are expecting mystery or thrillers that make your skin crawl, you might be hugely disappointed as I was.
Readers should bear in mind this is not your typical whodunit and I think the blurb is misleading and this should be promptly addressed.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Thank you, Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for granting me an opportunity to read this book in exchange for my unbiased, honest review.