Published by St Martin's Griffin on June 24th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, mystery-thriller, young adult
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Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller Complicit from Stephanie Kuehn, the William C. Morris Award--winning author of Charm & Strange.
Thrillers are my thing. I love them. Especially of the psychological variety wherein the narrator/main character is struggling to uncover a truth about their past. It is my lifeblood. I LOVE IT. Stephanie Kuehn’s first novel didn’t quite work out for me, though it is in the same vein, but this one, holy hell. Complicit blew me away.
This is the type of book you should know little about before diving right in. I read very little of the blurb before picking this one up – basically, I knew that Kuehn was a good writer and I needed to give her work a second chance. Trust me, you’re going to want to steer clear of any talk about this book, any try as hard as possible to stay away from synopses. Because surprises and twists are the name of the game in Complicit I’m going to try my best to stay away from plot talk on this one. One thing I will say: the great, big mystery was pretty easy to figure out, especially by the halfway mark. But even if you think you know, you don’t know. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the major curve-balls this book is going to throw at you. There are shocking revelations to be had, and the ending is fucking twisted.
Onto the rest. I very much enjoyed the voice in Complicit. Jamie was frank and snarky and hilarious and observant. His voice was compulsively readable, really. He actually reminded me a lot of Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower except that he was much more proactive and really pushed himself past his anxiety, paranoia, and fear. I thought Kuehn did a great job of capturing the teenage boy without playing to the lowest common denominator and giving us a bunch of bathroom humor and pervy male gazing. Jamie wasn’t perfect – he had a little bit of that “protect her honor” type of sexism in him, as well as some unfortunate prejudice to those with mental illness – but he was personable and he felt very, very real and authentic.
The romance in this one was so sweet. I loved how Jamie’s relationship with Jenny wasn’t about tragic, all-consuming love. Instead it felt very much like a first relationship would feel like – with all the adorableness and awkwardness and sexiness in heaping doses. And the effect Jenny had on Jamie was palpable. On one hand, Jamie is totally stressed about his sister, so much that it’s affecting him both emotionally AND physically. But then there was Jenny, who wasn’t the perfect girl or the perfect girlfriend, but was sincere and kind and supportive to him. I loved the scenes when they were together – it was the perfect break from the chaos and tension of the rest of the plot.
The only real problem I had with Complicit was with Jamie’s parents, Angie and Malcolm. Sometimes they would seem very involved and very loving. But at other times, when shit really started hitting the fan for Jamie, they checked out. Malcolm especially, who wasn’t a part of the present-day parts of the novel at all, which really, really bugged me. Given their history and Jamie’s history, I expected them to be more involved parents than they were. It was a disappointment.
Anyway. Go buy Complicit when it comes out next week. I am not kidding. It’s as close to the perfect thriller as you can get. Jamie and his sister, Cate, really pop out of the page and demand that you hear their story. And the twists and turns the plot takes are sure to shock you.