Monday, August 11, 2014

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: June 2014
Pages: 256
Stars: (5/5)

You can only feel bad for so long when someone else's pain is hurting you, too.

Complicit was a mind boggling book that was not only gripping, but also a  heartbreaking and amazingly executed novel.  I imagine that the less you know of the story, the more you will love it and find it hopefully intriguing.  So, I will try to keep that in mind while I review Kuehn's masterpiece.

Jamie Henry has had a tough life.  This doesn't mean that he's had a few ups and downs, but that he lived in a horrible neighborhood where his mother was shot while both he and his sister, Cate, were at home.  At the age of six he was ripped from his house and life so that he could be placed with a new, privileged family whose own two biological children died.  As replacements, Cate thrived in this new environment while Jamie suffered.  However, with time and a new psychiatrist to aid him, Jamie eventually learned to cope and get better, enabling him to live his life comfortably.  Strangely, with time, Cate turned into someone else.  She played mind games, took drugs, and ran around town like she owned the place.  Then, she was taken away for the unthinkable, burning down the local horse barn.  It was in this accident that a girl was caught in the fire, Sarah, who owned one of the horses residing in the barn.  Sarah was Scooter's, Jamie's best friend's, girlfriend.  After Cate was given her sentence, Scooter abandoned Jamie, leaving him lonely and desolate.

Now, Cate's out of confinement and ready to come after her brother.  Jamie has no idea what she wants.  He only knows that he's scared to death of her and whatever she's coming to do.  His life's looking up, and he can't let it fall apart.  Jamie's a skillful pianist, recently got a gem of a girlfriend, and is at the top of his class.  What more could he possibly desire?  Then it comes gnawing at him.  Answers.  Cate keeps calling him, badgering him, threatening him about how he needs to know.  Jamie's confused.  What must he know?  He can't remember anything before he was six years old.  His memory is locked up tight.  Jamie's only recollection of his childhood is the sweet, sweet smell of cigarettes that surrounded his mother and her long, dark hair. With Cate lurking around, he reverses and reverts to old habits from his young and faraway past.  He's anxious, agitated, and paranoid.  He once had a well known habit that included him ripping out his eyebrows, an action that's now returned.  The oddest thing of all is that, when he's overcome by extreme emotion, his hands go numb and he loses all feeling and function in them.  Cate's creeping closer, menacing and cold.  What does she mean to do, and why do all of these things keep happening to Jamie?  Will he ever finds the answers that will finally put to rest the questions driving him, pushing him around, trying to escape, or will he be doomed to a life of hidden truths, truths that Cate's not supposed to tell?

I love psychological thrillers, and this is such an excellent reason why I do.  Kuehn writes a story that takes you through time with a constant swing from Jamie's present to his past and back again, time and time again throughout the entirety of her novel.  Jamie's life is so damaged, a broken story that is so heart wrenching and initially shattered to pieces.  The issues surrounding his hands and their numbness is a very intriguing part of the book.  No doctor has been able to figure out the reason behind it or what disease it could be attached to.  His diagnosis falls flat of everything they know or can even understand.  However, I found it very strange that Cate knew what diagnosis he should be given or at least was familiar with it.

Cate and Jamie's relationship is truly unique and such an interesting aspect in Complicit to see unfold.  The two by themselves are unique alone.  Whenever Cate calls Jamie, she's nice to her little brother one minute and then suddenly enraged towards him the next.  Her past, which I won't spoil here, is unlike any other I've read about.  She's a true enigma.  Jamie himself is interested in the subject of fate and all that it means.  Even though this is interesting, I felt that it could have been elaborated on more in the book.  It seemed almost a slight background fact that could have been more. Both characters have a mental instability that will leave you wanting more and more from them.

This story was beautifully written from Jamie's very own point of view.  His story was powerfully explored and supported by his strong presence.  Whenever he was upset, I found myself upset as well.  When he was frustrated at Cate, I was frustrated with Cate to the point where I wanted to throw something.  Jamie's the character that's fun to see inside of, a person whose world is so different from your own that you can't help but want to know more.  Every chapter was relatively short.  This added to the initial suspense of the novel.  I was able to read this book within the capacity of two days, and that's not because it was only 250 pages.  It's because I was so invested in the story that I never wanted to put it down.

I'm sure that many people will be able to unravel the mystery surrounding Cate and Jamie's life before it is revealed at the end of Complicit.  However, I found the ending just as great despite this.  Everything was revealed and laid out at just the right moment.  I must say that, even though I knew how some of the story had to end, I didn't expect the conclusion to play out like it did.  At the end I myself was left broken and full of sorrow.  Kuehn wrote with an insanity and complexity, so much so that I was frozen at the end.  Rereading the last chapter over and over again.  My wheels are still turning from the aftereffect of this book.  I don't know how to get over it.

There are some dreams you can't wake up from.

These are called nightmares.
-Jamie Henry

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