Wednesday, 19 April 2017
#SweetPea #CJSkuse #Review
Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.
A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.
Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…
Ok, so this is not just a good book, but a very good book.
A while ago I read The Deviants, CJ Skuse's YA novel, gave it 5 stars and downloaded another of her titles straight away. Sweetpea is her first adult novel and I really enjoyed it.
But, before you choose whether to read this book or not, I do need to warn you that this is not for the fainthearted or easily offended. Skuse's writing is raw and unrestrained. Rhiannon is a fascinating creation and a character who you will either love or hate. She is damaged, cold, dysfunctional dangerous and not afraid to use the c word.
I think Skuse's choice to use this word is considered and deliberate, and definitely fits with her character. It is used carefully and effectively. It is not used to cause sensationalism or make Skuse seem more 'edgy' or to generate headlines, but I know that some people will find this difficult to get past and so I think it is only fair to mention it in this review.
The event described in the opening is also is shocking and I wasn't quite prepared for the graphic detail. The crime we witness Rhiannon carry out is exceptionally violent. Again, Skuse is using it to show the psychopathic nature of the character; her cold, dead pan way of justifying her actions and her plain speaking way of reporting events rather than trying to deliberately shock us with something sensationalist. But perhaps those of a sensitive disposition may need to be cautious when they start the book!
This aside, the narrative voice absolutely hooked me in and held me throughout the novel. Rhiannon has one of the strongest, most memorable voices I've come across for a while. I did not like her, feel much sympathy for her, or relate to her but I could not stop reading about her. She made me laugh, she made me think, scarily sometimes I agreed with her! She made me squirm and she made me turn cold. A character does not have to be likeable for me to read to the end of a book but they have to fascinate and intrigue me, they have to have a journey that I want to be part of - and Rhiannon has all of this. A hundred times over.
Sweetpea was not a one sitting read, in fact this book took me a few days to read which is unusual. I think that Rhiannon's voice is quite intense and the unpleasant nature of the topics, crimes and characters made it a book I felt I had to have a break from every now and again rather than being able to completely lose myself in the pages for hours. That said, the last quarter of the novel was quite unputdownable. As Rhiannon suddenly finds her life taking a path she did not plan, prepare for or consider, everything starts to change. This not only pulled the rug out from beneath Rhiannon but also beneath me. Suddenly I was unsure where the story line was heading. I had not expected the twists and turns of the last section of the book and was delighted as Skuse continued to shock me, thrill me and surprise me right up until the very last word.
This book truly delivers on all fronts. Engaging characters, compelling plot, an original and fresh narrative voice. Skuse is also a writer whose descriptions show excellent observations and insight about people and society. She is an intelligent writer who has a deep understanding of human nature and human relationships which she conveys with subtlety.
We are reading Rhiannon's diary which is a great structure for the novel. First of all, it is obviously all from Rhiannon's point of view so she can not only control what she reveals about herself, she also controls what we see of the other people in her life. She has a wide range of friends, colleagues and acquaintances but all are brought to life through her scathing, sarcastic tongue. The diary structure also keeps the narrative a little bit more relaxed, often lapsing into less formal prose. Giving dates at the beginning of each entry means there is a sense of counting down towards something which adds more tension.
I also liked that each chapter began with a list. It's a list of who she is going to kill and some of the victims are serious contenders - really evil or dangerous people -but some of the people on the list are added for the hell of it. Rhiannon is not a tolerant person but to be honest, some of the people on her list have no doubt provoked a certain reaction from all of us! Obviously we are sane enough not to take our frustrations any further and rational enough to show respect for the law but clearly Rhiannon is completely insane! I think the lists also helped to create a little bit more lightheartedness. They are people that we've all come across in shops, Facebook and trains so Rhiannon's wry observations and complaints are relatable and will raise a nod of agreement from the reader which cleverly aligns us with this violent character. Rhiannon's ever sarcastic voice is also sharp, witty and funny and this contradiction helps the reader to cope with the more harrowing aspects of the novel. Skuse has struck a clever balance and it works perfectly.
I think this book might get mixed reactions from readers but I highly recommend it. I think it's memorable, original and chilling. I think the main protagonist is an imaginative and well conceived character who is very well handled across a well managed plot that packs a punch with its revelations, twists and monologue of internal wonderings.
I will look forward to Skuse's next adult novel. She is one to watch out for.
Sweetpea is published on 20th April 2017 by HQ.
For more recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk