Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).
Review: This is one of those books that is really hard to rate, primarily because I really didn’t like the main character, David. That said, I don’t think we’re supposed to like him. After all, he makes some horrible choices, and his perception of reality seems rather distorted.
Still, I had a really hard time separating the character from the writing. Is the writing itself pretentious or is that a method employed to show how much David thinks of his own intellect? Given what he does, it seems he would be depicted as being more evil, but I think that’s the point. This kind of crime is committed every day, especially on college campuses, and it isn’t unusual for everyone to be shocked, to say that they would never have expected the perpetrator to do anything like that. Who would ever choose to keep company with them if they gave off an “unsafe” vibe?
So, again I say, I suspect we are supposed to find him irritating, a little different, a little removed and socially awkward, but with other redeeming qualities. He’s brilliant, not bad looking, and he attempts to engage socially, even if those attempts aren’t particularly successful. We pity his being bullied and his unrealized dream of being recognized for being more than what he’s historically been given credit for. After all, he got into Harvard, which is pretty darned elite in and of itself.
But underneath all of that, David feels he’s owed. He doesn’t understand why everyone else fails to see how great he is, but his frustration is something he keeps under wraps. He’s not humble or self-deprecating. He’s a closet narcissist who believes that, given the right circumstances (circumstances he believes he can manufacture), he’ll finally rise in the eyes of others, finally get his due. And when that doesn’t happen, he tries to take what he wants.
No. There is nothing at all likeable about David.
And one of the most unsettling things about this story is how subtle it all is, how the expected undercurrent of evil is missing, how David and everyone around him has no idea what he is capable of. And even more so, how at the end, the whole event is so underplayed. It feels like it should be dramatic, and traumatic, and infuriating, but it’s really rather anticlimactic. Perhaps, again, this is intentional because we are supposed to be viewing it all from David’s perspective, and David is self-absorbed and appears to be emotionally detached, maybe even lacking a conscience. He is the scariest kind of monster. The kind that blends in because he doesn’t stand out. He’s the disaster you never saw coming.
Did I like the book? I’m still not sure about that. But it made me think. It got to me. And that’s not nothing.