Review: White Bodies by Jane Robins



Atria Books | 2017

Filed Under: Eating teeth and hair like a goddamn appetizer

If you’ve ever wanted to eat your sister’s hair, this book is for you.

Or if you just like reading twisty novels about obsession with a dose of weirdness, then definitely try this. I will in no way assume it’s because you also eat your sister’s hair.

This novel has a decidedly bleak, gloomy and unsettled atmosphere hanging over it, with a noir quality that is subtle, but evident. Combine that with twins and the “murder exchange” trope and you’ve got yourself something that can only fail in its clichés.

Callie is the ugly twin. Tilda is the beautiful one. I’m going to be honest – they both have serious mental health issues even if Tilda wants to play like only Callie does. Callie is a quiet, meek follower. Tilda is a leader, controlling and determined.

When the beautiful Tilda starts dating the equally beautiful Felix, Callie becomes entrenched in their relationship like a third wheel that is constantly staring at you. Maybe that wheel goes home and masturbates to you. You don’t know! But the thought crosses your mind because the third wheel is just acting so fucking weird and it makes you uncomfortable.

Tilda and Felix push Callie away, but Callie suspects it’s not because she’s acting like a fucking weirdo, but because Tilda is being hurt and controlled by Felix. The usually vibrant and pushy Tilda has become thin and agreeable, doing whatever Felix says. Callie doesn’t like it, so her obsession shifts – Callie becomes convinced Tilda’s life is in danger. She starts attending an online support group for abused women and finds like-minded individuals who just want to help. But just how far are they willing to go?

This is Strangers on a Train meets Single White Female. And as long as you’re not involved personally, those are some pretty fun plots.

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There are books that have pulled off this particular trope better – The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson comes to mind. But there is still something fun and dark about White Bodies that made it a good, fast read for me.

Robins had the differing personalities of these twins down to a fine art. What I liked most about these ladies was that even though they were (almost) forcing the reader to understand they were two completely different people with nothing in common – barely acting like twins at all – in the end, their neuroses were what connected them. Their character arcs made me giddy. It was *chef’s kiss*!

I love a book that keeps you on your toes, where you don’t know which way is up or if a character is on the level or fucking around; when the plot seems predictable and linear, but then something happens to rock you and you’re grasping for anything to hold onto to get yourself upright again. That’s what this book tries to pull off, and while it wasn’t done perfectly, it was still a really great effort and I can’t complain.

There were moments that shook me a little bit. There were moments I found clever, cringe-worthy and creepy. Nothing was 10/10, but it’s worth reading if you’re into creepy noir suspense.

Jane Robins has a shit ton of promise as a writer. I get the feeling she’s a little weird herself, which is even better for those of us who want to pick up a book and go “wtf?” at something we have never gone “wtf?” at before. Eating teeth and hair definitely did that for me.

giphy (8)

I wouldn’t call this a thriller, it’s not action-packed or heart racing, but I don’t think it was meant to be either. It feels purposefully menacing, designed to make you uncomfortable even if you aren’t sure why. Like when Donald Trump stalked Hillary Clinton around the debate stage. It’s weird, but it’s not weird enough to call out and be like “can you just fucking stop?”

Robins has created a page-turning experience, in my opinion. Honestly, this is not what I thought this book would be, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit until…

That fucking ending. It threw off my whole experience. I don’t know if I hated it or if it was just so abstract that I haven’t fully come to terms with it yet. Maybe in a month I’ll really like it. But until then I’m taking away half a star as punishment.


This chilling psychological suspense novel–think Strangers on a Train for the modern age–explores the dark side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind two sisters together. 

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless facade, not everything is as it seems. 

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms. 

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies–or was he murdered? 

A page-turning work of suspense that announces a stunning new voice in fiction, White Bodies will change the way you think about obsession, love, and the violence we inflict on one another–and ourselves.

Book source: The publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a review

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