#AllTheWickedGirls #ChrisWhitaker #Review
Ok. I have been really looking forward to reading this. For a long time. I loved Tall Oaks (you can read my review here) and honestly couldn't wait for Chris Whitaker's second book to arrive. I was super curious to see how it would match up against such an original debut novel. My enormous thanks to the author and publisher for sending me an advance copy in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Well, all I can say is that All The Wicked Girls is possibly one of the most incredible novels you will read this year. There is only one word that really sums it up effectively - and that word is powerful.
With Tall Oaks, Whitaker proved he was full of original and creative ideas with a sharp, witty, sense of humour. All The Wicked Girls just confirms this all over again and then some. This second novel shows his exceptional ability to create vivid characters and a compelling storyline. In this novel, Whitaker has written about Summer Ryan; a model student and a musical prodigy who goes missing. But All The Wicked Girls is as much about a community and the individuals within that community as the actual brutal and terrifying crime that is being investigated.
What makes All The Wicked Girls so powerful is the fact it is such an immersive experience. Set in Grace, Alabama, the whole novel is written with an Alabama accent. This is surprisingly easy to read and quickly pulls the reader directly into the community of Grace. It makes the voices of the characters stronger, louder, more authentic and the reader feels much more absorbed into the setting; the connection between the reader and the character closer. I fell into Grace's culture, society, time and place - a part of the world I have never travelled to, no knowledge of or any connection with but because of the style of prose, I was transported there. I was utterly immersed in the world of the story.
Whitaker's writing is so fluent that the reader can not help but get swept along in the events of Grace and the interactions between the characters - characters who are vivid, colourful, and memorable. This is a gritty novel that explores real issues and the real complexities that affect a community and its families when a girl goes missing. The language spoken between the characters reflects that grittiness, that reality, that violence, that truth. But there is also a huge amount of emotion within these pages. There is a huge amount of understanding, empathy and care. There are some sentences that shock you with expletives and then there are some sentences that shock you with their beauty. I was so incredibly impressed with the author's ability to capture conversations that were written with such a sparing use of language yet so evocative, and then in other sections produce phrases that were exquisitely written. There was a well judged and well balanced mixture of stripped back, brutal, passages against the more lyrical, mesmerising and poetic moments.
Like I said. Powerful.
This book does not have cliffhangers at the end of its chapters, it has something worse. It has sentences that make your stomach lurch and leave you breathless, blinking back tears as the poignancy, brutal honesty or sadness hits you. There are some chapter endings that I will not forget. I love writing that uses phrases or observations that seem casual or innocent yet are weighed heavy with meaning and heartache. The narrative sections written by Summer got me every time.
I think this novel is ambitious and complex in what it sets out to achieve. It has a large cast of characters and I was gripped yet full of heartache at the same time. The main characters are vividly brought to life and their interwoven stories are dark, oppressive, atmospheric and evocative. We alternate between Summer's narrative and the third person present, there are several threads and several complex themes to pull together but Whitaker makes all of this appear effortless with writing that is faultless. And impressive. And powerful. Have I said that already?!
All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker is published by Zaffre on 24th August 2017.
If you live in Harpenden, then please come along and meet Chris Whitaker
Saturday 2nd September
Why not come down, say hello, then pick up a copy of All the Wicked Girls and get it signed!
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my blog bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk or website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk