Monday, 15 August 2016

The Deviants


Book Title: The Deviants
Author: C.J. Skuse
Date Started: August 9th 2016
Date Completed: August 14th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Star
Final Rating: Four stars

◆ Thank you HarperCollins for providing me with this proof copy to review ◆
◆ I will be participating in a blog tour for the release of The Deviants
in September on - keep an eye out! ◆

I tend not to dive into the young adult contemporary genre unless something really catches my eye, but a revenge story inspired by the Famous Five if it had had a dark edge - and some impressive reviews - was enough to get me interested. Going in, I didn’t really know much about the actual story past those elements, and I definitely didn’t expect the tough issues that drove the central plot. As it happens I’m very happy a proof copy did find its way to me because I really enjoyed it.

Thinking back on it, The Deviants still impressed me at how enjoyable such a dark plot was made to be. This isn’t a slightly grim contemporary, there're some really uncomfortable topics explored in its pages. Having said that, there were definitely times when the characters felt very childish in their actions, and a little cliched in their behaviour. I think what made it work in the end was Skuse’s ability to create gentle tension in normal situations, and bring a little lightheartedness into an unhappy scene without disregarding the darker circumstances.

One of the main strengths of this book is its attention to realism and creating a sense of community between this small group of people. This is what holds up all the events, and makes you root for the protagonists even though they do some seriously questionable things at times. It’s also what makes things interesting and tense. There’s a genuine sense that there are going to be consequences if they don’t act, as well as if they do. At times, when things get a little bit darker, this gets a bit lost: we get some overly analytical expositions from people that probably wouldn’t be able to recount events in such a way so that the reader is educated enough to understand what’s happening, and the ending particularly was a bit unrealistic in its heights of drama. However, everything else is done so well and in a way that, as a reader, you really do feel on the edge of your seat and thrilled (something that I find surprisingly hard in a most of the thrillers I read) that honestly I’m fine to let little slip ups like that pass.
In terms of the climax itself, like I said, it felt a little over-the-top in a way that didn’t quite match the rest of the book, and the resolution that followed felt a bit too perfect. It was so neatly finished that something that was perhaps meant to feel bittersweet felt like a happy ending, and after what had felt like a very real and emotional storyline I didn’t get that proper feeling of triumph like I was supposed to. In terms of the educational benefit, I think Skuse achieves everything she set out to in those last twenty pages, but the enjoyable and realistic side of the book lost out a bit for me right at the finish line.

This book had a good cast of flawed but lovable characters all round. I was also happy that, as this is a book that relies a lot on events in the past, we get to learn and know these characters in the present. A lot of stories that are built on backstories favour flashbacks to develop their characters, and tend to neglect the story that they’re currently telling, but thankfully the characters of The Deviants were well written throughout.
For a protagonist who’s introduced to us as actually quite dislikable, I don’t quite know how I ended up so invested in Ella. She develops a lot even in this short book, but I think I really liked seeing a character constantly caught between confronting her emotions through anger or kindness. There’s a sense that she’s very aware herself that she makes bad decisions at times, but she also has enough faith in her judgement and character to push through them anyway. I think she was really strong and a great person to build this story around.

The Deviants gets into the action quickly but lets the reader ease into working things out for themselves. It’s very much a book where you can try and be one step ahead of the game if you want to, but can also just let it take you along slowly. This makes it quite enjoyable to read whatever your style is, but I will warn you that by the halfway point I couldn’t really stop reading until the end.

What really impressed me in the end with The Deviants was that Skuse didn’t just tick the boxes for a fun plot, diversity, tough issues and drama; she actually fulfils them the whole way through. Actions have consequences and it's not as simple as good vs evil. That sort of realism is so often sacrificed in favour of a fast-paced plot, but Skuse manages to sneak in both. Definitely worth a read but keep in mind it’s not for younger readers and there might be triggering events for some people.

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