“This is what ordinary people are like. They don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to care. They would rather let a few people disappear, a few families suffer and never recover, than ruin everybody’s vacation.”
Berkley | 2021
Filed Under: Two shakes away from Texas Chainsaw
Well, this was fucking weird.
I don’t know if this review is going to make any sense at all, because I’m still not sure how I really feel about this novel. So, uh, good luck reading my stoned thoughts.
First of all, the main character, Sera, is wildly unstable. Like, break into Sandra Bullock’s home and get into her bed unstable. Like, John Hinckley unstable. Did I enjoy being in the head of a character like that? Fucking no! But was it captivating, very yes. And fucking uncomfortable the whole time. Sera is so unlikable, watching her exist was akin to an embarrassing American Idol audition.
The narrative voice is so wildly different from anything I’ve ever read before. It perfectly illuminates that unstable vibe using an awkward fast-paced, minimalist style. And that was both brilliant and difficult to read.
Sera is dealing with a divorce and the loss of a child when she decides to start a one-woman search party looking for a missing true-crime podcaster, Rachel Bard. Sera is full-on, psycho mode OBSESSED with Rachel. I’m not talking about JTT posters on the wall kind of obsessed, this was so unhealthy it turns into real-world action. And that’s usually restraining order territory.
If your infatuation with a person starts crossing over into violating their personal boundaries, you have a serious fucking issue. Sera, you got a fucking issue, girl!
Like, yes, she’s definitely got a lot on her plate mental health-wise, but this seemed way next level to me.
Sera’s search leads her to get a job on the Bard Family’s horse farm, hoping it will lead to clues as to what happened to Rachel… so, that’s nuts.
And the Bard family? Also fucked up and totally unlikable.
Every character in this is weird, personality turned up to eleven in a way that feels unexplained, and untethered to the plot. Everyone was suspish and hard to experience. Because that’s how Sera was interpreting it, being unaware of reason or motive? Or was that just the writing style? Either way, it’s not the easiest to read. Like, if you were to ask me, what’s one narrative world you would absolutely not want to be stuck in, it would be this one.
I do not want to ever be around any of these people ever again.
More than I don’t want to be in Jurassic Park or Bram Stoker’s Dracula castle? Yes, more than that.
With that said, the mystery itself was fucking good. Finding out what happened to Rachel – or if anything happened to her at all – was the only reason I finished this. There is an aspect to the writing that casts the narrator as so totally unreliable, I wasn’t sure if there was a mystery to solve at all. There is a chance that Sera is so delusional, she’s seeing connections where none exist; imaging danger has befallen Rachel when a simple explanation is the right explanation.
This is a debut novel that stands out in my mind, despite my lukewarm review. I think that says something. I found the author’s narrative voice unique, but challenging. Stella never totally found her groove with If I Disappear. Stella is me in this scenario. And while the mystery was a dark, oddball nightmare that definitely had my attention, the characters were so hard to deal with.
So, I don’t know. I liked it enough, but I didn’t fall in love with it like I usually do with quirky thrillers.
It’s an unconventional, atmospheric thriller that will find its right audience and that’s all that really matters.
When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession.
Sera loves true crime podcasts. They make her feel empowered in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She’s sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it’s time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.
Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel’s small hometown to begin her search. She’s convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last…
Rachel did try to warn her.