Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik



Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik
Release Date - March 3, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 336 pages
My Rating - 2/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**

**SPOILERS**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The Secret History meets Sharp Objects in this stunning debut about murder and glamour set in the ambiguous and claustrophobic world of an exclusive New England prep school.

Death sets the plot in motion: the murder of Nica Baker, beautiful, wild, enigmatic, and only sixteen. The crime is solved, and quickly—a lonely classmate, unrequited love, a suicide note confession—but memory and instinct won’t allow Nica’s older sister, Grace, to accept the case as closed.

Dropping out of college and living at home, working at the moneyed and progressive private high school in Hartford, Connecticut, from which she recently graduated, Grace becomes increasingly obsessed with identifying and punishing the real killer.

Compulsively readable, Lili Anolik’s debut novel combines the verbal dexterity of Marisha Pessl’s Special Topic in Calamity Physics and the haunting atmospherics and hairpin plot twists of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. 
It actually hurts me to write this review. This is probably also going to be one of the shortest reviews I've written. I went into this book really excited, and expecting a thrilling read. One that maybe could be the mystery novel that surprised me this year. Sadly, during the duration of the novel a particular story line element caused me to not enjoy this novel as much as I could have.

Before discussing what didn't work for me, I want to highlight the positive. There are plenty of elements I did enjoy. The writing was good, the mystery started out incredibly solid. The potential was definitely there. The first half of the novel is rather well done and plotted. I was engrossed in the mystery and appreciated the dark tone of the writing and atmosphere. The characters are flawed, and messy and fit into the world the author had created.

Rape culture, and how we define rape is a huge hot button issue right now. It's an element that I react strongly to. I am going to be upfront about that. In order to discuss exactly why I didn't enjoy this particular novel I do have to discuss it by including spoilers. During the novel the main character drinks and takes drugs. She ends up waking up the next day not remembering much of the night before. She later finds out she is pregnant. She is a virgin before this happened and doesn't remember having sex that night with anyone. As the story progresses we find out who the father is. They have a discussion where he says ‘I had sex with you. While you were unconscious, I had sex with you.’ and yet the main character seems to try to rationalize it away. She says she was drunk. That he was drunk (his reply is that he wasn't that drunk). He even says he went ahead and let it happen because she reminded him of her dead sister. The main character calls what happened by it's actual name, rape, once. She later mentions that what happened was foolish, but not forced. My personal opinion is that she was unconscious therefore she could not give consent. That equals rape to me. I wish this novel would have dealt with it that way, but instead we have them become a couple. At the end of the novel she is dating him. It felt weird to me that she would be dating the guy who essentially raped her. It left an sinking feeling in my stomach as I was reading because it felt like victim blaming to me. Women struggle to be taken seriously when reporting rape, and I feel that media and entertainment need to showcase this type of scenario as actually rape not some shaded grey area. I feel there were other ways this could have been presented while still keeping the mystery element of the story line in tact, but would not have painted what happened to the main character in such a light.

If this particular element had been left out of the novel, or handled differently, I could have resulted in a much different reading experience. The twists and turns the story took were satisfying, and the mixture of betrayal, family secrets was delicious. The misdirections were often smart, and neatly tied together. I, sadly, just couldn't get past that one particular element.

I would read another book by this author, but this one just wasn't for me. It left a unpleasant feeling behind which I could not shake and set aside to enjoy the story.

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