*Note: I was provided a digital ARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review*
This book…was not quite what I expected. While I have not read the Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin, I can imagine this book would (without question) appeal to fans of that series. This is a first-class YA thriller — caveat emptor: this is a thriller for the older YA crowd. It shies away neither from gore nor language.
But with that gore comes a plot that is beautifully and intricately woven to the point of sometimes appearing impenetrable. Every little detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant becomes vital to the novel’s outcome; and every action from the characters comes with some kind of consequence. The mysteries — yes, plural — of The Sham are what draw us, as readers, in and Ellen Allen finds a way to keep us glued to the pages by the most powerful of forces: curiosity.
“What does that mean? What’s going to happen? I think I’ve finally figured it out — oh…wait…nevermind.” Every time you think you have got it, Ellen Allen turns up something that puts a wrench in your theories and knocks you back a bit.
This is a novel about characters and setting more than language, and I thought that both were done quite well. These characters are very, very (painfully) real. None of them perfect — far from it, really — but it is their flaws which make them not only unique, but interesting. From our protagonist Emily, who blossoms from terrified and weak girl to more-self-assured young lady; to mysterious and spoiler-ridden Jack; to the other girls — Becky, Rebecca, Kitty and Cath — whose own secrets creep in and out of the narrative like morning mist…these are all real people with real problems.
I said it before and I will say it again: this is a very dark, shocking, and brutal novel. I do not recommend it for younger readers, even younger teen readers, but I do recommend it for those who love thrillers, mysteries, and have slightly stronger stomachs. This is a book to read with all the lights on and do your best to crack like a higher-level math problem.