Hey guys! Happy December! This month is my due date so little Grayson will be with us really soon and I cannot wait to meet him! One of my best friends just had her little boy a couple days ago and I feel like it kicked me into baby mode. All I want to do is unbox Ronan's old newborn clothes and baby blankets, make Target runs to buy binkies and bottle brushes and things I probably don't need, and set up our den/nursery. Nesting has begun to tighten it's grip a little. But don't worry! I will still be working on posting content here as much as possible for you guys. In fact I'm currently reading 3 books and a graphic novel which is unheard of for me. I've always been a 1 book at a time kind of girl. But I want to be able to contribute to my little blog here as much as possible, so every free moment I have a book in my hand or an audiobook playing. And I am so not complaining! I might do a post about one-at-a-time reading vs. multiple, but I feel like I am reading even more because I have books to choose from for my mood instead of only the 1 book to jump in to. But stay tuned for that post in the future. Also, I just got a notification that I've had the blog up for a little over a month now. If you have been stopping in and reading my posts or following the twitter page, thank you so much! I'm really enjoying blogging and being a part of the book blog community. I'm super excited for Blogmas this year! I am not participating since I plan on having a baby this month and don't think I could commit to that may posts, but I'm so excited for all the content coming from some awesome bloggers and boooktubers! But that's enough of life updates/rambling. Let's get in to my review of Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker.
Here's a quick synopsis for you: One night Cass (15) and Emma (17) mysteriously dissapear. Emma's car is found on a beach nearby their home, her shoes found nearby on the sand. There's no clue as to what happened to Cass, other than a few hairs in the back seat of her sister's car, which could have gotten there on any one of the countless times she rode with her sister. Nobody knows what happened to the girls. The FBI, local authorities and family are totally stumped. One day, 3 years later and out of nowhere, Cass shows up on her mother's front steps with a wild story about being kidnapped and held captive on an island against her will. We also follow an FBI psychiatrist, Abby Winter, who has worked the case from the day the girls initially go missing. Abby feels like there is something... off here. She needs to get to the bottom of what really happened to the girls on the day they went missing and how Cass got home and why she showed up by herself. The entire story is a tortuous, twisty exploration of family dynamics, narcissistic personality disorder, and the bond between sisters as we slowly start to piece together what actually happens along with detective Abby Winter and her partner. I will say that you will not see the ending coming along with several other shocking surprise twists.
I will start off by saying I'm typically not a huge fan of being told the story instead of being shown. By that I mean, a lot of this book is told from the point of view of Cass and she is telling an FBI psychiatrist about what happened to her and her sister. So she is speaking in the past tense and telling what happened instead of the reader being with the characters as the events are happening and experiencing the feelings and moments with them. Like I said, most of the time this storytelling style bothers me. It feels 2-dimensional and I have a hard time immersing myself in the story or getting attached to the characters. But Emma in the Night get's a pass on that from me. That's because such a huge part of the plot leans on this possibility of an unreliable narrator. In the case of this book, I feel like the elements and dimension added by having Cass as a possible unreliable narrator makes up for what is missing by having a majority of the story of what happened to the girls told to us rather than shown.
**Spoilers included from this point forward.
The part of this book that really set it apart from plenty of other missing person thrillers for me was the exploration of narcissistic personality disorder. Abby is a psychiatrist who specializes in this personality disorder because of her own personal experience with it in her mother. She just knows that Emma and Cass's mother exhibits the traits of the disorder, but it is such a difficult thing to prove in most cases and she just doesn't have the proof she needs. Having spent a large part of my own life with somebody who has this same personality disorder, it all clicked for me. I feel like Walker portrayed not only the characterisitcs of narcissistic personality disorder so well, but also how it effects the people around the person who has it, particularly the sisters in this case. It was so accuartely portrayed, at least in my eyes, and hit the feelings and emotions and reactions the girls had right on the head. The favoritism and how the mother forced the girls to compete against eachother for her love and attention, while also making sure the girls knew that she would always be better than them, prettier than them, more powerful than them was so accurate to my own experiences. Walker talked, through Abby, about breaking the cycle of narcissism and how hard it is for children of parents with the disorder to break that cycle because of how they are raised and what they must do as young people to protect themselves emotionally and mentally from a narcissistic parent. I just related to everything she said on every level and it really made me want to go do some research on my own on the disorder and read more about it.
As far as the storytelling, the whole story was really gripping and I really didn't want to stop until I figured out how Cass escaped from the island and how the girls got there in the first place. The unreliable narrator plot device was used very well. In the beginning, Cass definitely seems to be the one in the family that has it all together, despite her mother being a complete maniac. But as the story unfolds, we start to see that Cass may not be as innocent as we think she is. Having the story be told in essentially 3 different POVs was just what the story needed. We had Cass telling Abby about how she and her sister got to the island, life on the island for 3 years and ultimately how she escaped, as well as the third-person POV of Cass telling us what her life was like leading up to the dissapearance, and then Abby's POV as she is putting the pieces together. It made for some great twists and oportunities for the reader to try to figure out just what the heck happened as well. The only complaint I have was with the parts exploring the second step brother and the girls' latest step father. Their parts were just a little slow and I didn't really care for the characters. I get why they were there and that they were kind of decoy characters to make the reader think one thing so that there could be a twist that makes the reader second guess that assumption, but it was just kind of blah for me. But overall the storytelling aspect was very well done and could have gone a very flat two-dimensional direction, but totally didn't. And that is a testiment to great writing from Walker. Writing style and storytelling gets 4.5 out of 5 stars for me.
As I talked about before, we really saw our 3 main characters (the two girls and their mother) through the lens of narcissistic personality disorder and I really feel like it added a whole other dimension to the characters themselves as well as the decisions they each made and actions they took in the different situations. I loved how different each of the relationships were between all the characters and I feel like almost all the main characters were very three dimensional and just flat out entertaining to read. Another 4.5 out of 5 stars for characters for me.
Overall I loved this book and it is probably one of my favorites in the psychological thriller category for 2017! I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars overall and if you're looking for a mystery thriller that keeps you guessing with a twist of personality disorder thrown in, pick up Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker.