Book Review – Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph

Advance Review Copy (ARC)

I never got the opportunity to truly get involved in the story due to the formatting of the kindle copy. It was atrocious, the typos and incomplete words were infuriating. Making it difficult to progress with ease through the novel.  What should have been a tense thriller was reduced to a start stop motion, that hobbled progress and interest.  Annoying as that was, is wasn’t my only reason for this 2 star rating.

I like and enjoy reading YA, but it got to a point – early on this book where I thought, ‘is this how kids behave nowadays?’ ‘Nah, really?  Because it seems like nonsense’.  Then there’s the recklessness and thoughtlessness lumped in too.  Altogether just put me right off.

But I digress, as I haven’t explained why I think the plot is attempting to be convoluting but really is stringing so many red herrings along that you feel you’re in a fishmongers and to mix metaphors, until eventually you can’t see the woods for the trees or fish pie for fillets.

My Sum Up Of The Plot

10 years ago, Jess’s mum was murdered.  The killer hasn’t been caught and has kept on killing.  Her life has never really recovered from this tragic event, her dad is now a shell of himself, her friendship groups have changed and she herself is haunted by what was lost.  Thus, when Jess gets the chance to star in a YouTube reality show, she grabs at the opportunity to flush out the killer. Jess want to find this serial killer – The Magpie Man – and get justice for her mum.  

Sounds good I thought and I’m all onboard with this – a little bit like a true crime episode and bang up to date using the internet and social media.

Yet it wasn’t

I found Jess exasperating perhaps it was the attempt to make her bold then reticent and then shrug it off on her being a teen.  This is someone that’s grown up with the internet, knows about scary movie tropes and yet does all the things most likely to terrify or get herself killed. Why? Is her quest worth it at any cost?

The justification given for her Dad allowing her to participate in the show and continue to do so given the events that occurred is baffling. Yes, justice is need but at the expense of more trauma or another life?

And the mystery is?

That got me thinking about who Jess’s mum was.  We know she’s important to Jess and her family and ultimately to the police as she was the first victim of a serial killer but what do we really know about her.  That clearly is the crux of the matter. She is held up on a pedestal which is to be expected, so it took a while to realise there was no context to the mum: good relationship with the dad, few friends, nuclear family plus her own mum.  It is a sliver of a person, why kill her.

So, it’s either a stranger or someone in her life, a character we’ve already met or someone on the periphery of her life.  There is no obvious reason to kill her. That’s when the subterfuge really began to get on my nerves. How many individuals – men –  can you set up to be the killer before it gets to the point that you really don’t care who it is – you just want the name?

 All you want to know is the name; motivation, back story isn’t even a consideration. And to get to that point, you had to go through scenes that added no value other than padding the story.  One example is the big build up to the school trip as this mystical event, was a let-down, it proved only to be a plot device. Another is Mr Collins story, I can’t even.  It makes no sense – the motivation is idiotic and that is implausible coming from a teacher who interacts daily with children. Gah!

Final thoughts

To conclude, I liked that it contextualised grief because  it was easy to forget that whilst Jess’ life is the one on display – the most obviously broken –  thrust front and centre, it takes a while to think that she’s not the only one with heartache, who’s received devastating blows as a consequence of life’s vagaries.

So, it’s an okay read in my opinion, I don’t dislike it but there’s nothing that I really like –  I didn’t even care about this senseless death. Maybe it’s because I’m not a massive fan of reality shows as that angle when read, really held no interest for me which was a shame, as it was the drawing point from the synopsis.  Or maybe because I’m not down with the kids and don’t know how they behave, and my expectations were way off.  Either way, any way …. that’s it and like the book, my pacing comes to an abrupt stop.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s  for an ARC of this book in exchange for a candid review.

2 stars – it was okay

Engrossed Reader

Female, in her 40's who reads when she can, often to the detriment of sleep. Enjoying most genres and formats with a preference for ebooks, mainly for convenience

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