“We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”
The second I finished this book, I had to flip back to the beginning and skim the pages front to back hunting for the subtle little clues that may hint at the shocking end twist – and they were rather unnerving when spotted. This novel is clever, the writing superb and, if her other books prove to be as addictive, Emily Lockhart may well be my new favourite YA author.
I’m not too keen to write about the plot of this novel, at the risk of revealing too much. I didn’t read any reviews prior to reading it myself, and I do think its haunting impact is so much greater going into it blind. This is certainly not your standard YA fare. Even though an obligatory teen-romance does play out beneath the summer sun, it is so central to the novel’s dark tragedy that a touch of sentimentality is easily forgiven. This is much more a story of family dynamics, loss, guilt and the sometimes misplaced passions and impatience of youth. Of coming of age, while traversing the ever changing terrain of relationships and coming to terms with life’s inherent traumas.
I enjoyed the languid accounts of summers past and present, and devoured the darker turns which are revealed slowly and kept me eagerly turning the pages – perfect pacing! Lockhart’s writing is sophisticated and vividly beautiful, several passages left me with those delicious language-nerd goosebumps only exceptional writing can achieve:
“Welcome to my skull.
A truck is rolling over the bones of my neck and head. The vertebrae break, the brains pop and ooze. A thousand flashlights shine in my eyes. The world tilts.”
“He cried like a man, not like a boy. Not like he was frustrated or hadn’t gotten his way, but like life was bitter. Like his wounds couldn’t be healed.”
“One day when no one else was around, I went into the craft room at the back of the ground floor. I touched Gran’s collection of fabrics, the shiny bright buttons, the coloured threads. My head and shoulders melted first, followed by my hips and knees. Before long I was a puddle, soaking into the pretty cotton prints. I drenched the quilt she never finished, rusted the metal parts of her sewing machine. I was pure liquid loss.”
If you’re a reader who likes your YA to veer into more serious territory, this needs to be on your shelf. Dog days in this novel are bittersweet with the sting of private drama, and chances are that not a single character or event will be quite what you initially suspect.