“Sometimes there’s a fine line between romantic and sinister.”
I finished White Bodies yesterday and I am still reeling! The ending is so unexpected, the twist so psychologically deviant, it hits you like a sucker punch. As far as psychological suspense novels go, this is one wild ride!
Tilda and Callie are twin sisters. As close as two people can ever be, they are also opposites in every way. Callie always feels separated from Tilda. It’s a struggle she’s had her entire life.
Where Tilda is bright and charismatic, Callie is quiet and reserved. Tilda lives for the spotlight, always pushing forward, going for exactly what she wants. Callie is grateful to just be given a sliver of love and attention from her sister, always afraid that she will leave her behind.
So when Tilda invites her over to meet Felix, Tilda’s new boyfriend, Callie is surprised and flattered. She is curious to see how her sister is with a man she is interested in. Felix is everything Tilda is not. Controlled. Measured. Calm. Orderly. The opposite of Tilda in every way. But they seem in love. Happy. Content. And even better, Tilda involves Callie in her life more than ever before. It’s a closeness Callie relishes, but she starts to notice odd behaviors in Felix and changes in Tilda.
These changes cause Callie to confront Tilda and Felix, which pushes them both away. When Tilda does come back around, Callie notices even stranger behavior from Tilda. She’s not eating, turning away acting roles, and continues to keep Callie at a distance. When Callie sees bruises on Tilda’s arms, her fear for Tilda immediately escalates and she wonders if everything about Felix is a carefully controlled lie.
Callie, feeling helpless and out of control, finds an internet support group where victims and friends of victims can help each other. She befriends two girls from this group, Scarlett and Belle. But, when Belle ends up dead, things with Scarlett get confusing and begin to fray out of control. And when Felix ends up dead, Callie spins even further out of control.
White Bodies is such an imaginative and clever use of the unreliable narrator. Callie is the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever read. Or, at least, she ranks easily in the top five. She is prone to getting lost in her imagination, she borders on obsessive and obviously cannot control her own impulses. Throughout the entire book I couldn’t tell if she was relating events as they were actually happening, or if she was only telling her convenient side of events.
This book is a stunning dive into a narcissistic mind, and how easily we can sometimes be manipulated. Not only are the characters in the book being led to believe certain events, but as the reader, we are also being manipulated. There is a sense of being off balance as you read. You aren’t quite sure that everything is as it seems, but really have no idea where to look.
As far as suspense novels, I thought that this was brilliant. Is Felix the perpetrator or the victim? Perhaps both? Or maybe not. And where does Callie fit in?
I found White Bodies incredibly insightful because we are conditioned to believe certain things in society. And, when presented with something like domestic abuse, we tend to see what’s on the surface. But sometimes things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes, there really is more to the story. I can’t go into more detail without giving away details of the plot, and this is not a plot to be ruined. All I will say is sometimes the line between victim and assailant is finer than we like to think. Just like the thin line between good and evil, love and hate, passion and madness, what we choose to see in a situation can paint every circumstance in a skewed light.
Robins does a spectacular job keeping the reader on edge. Every time you think you have an answer, she tilts the world off balance again. Even more sinister, is that there is clearly abuse and violence happening around Callie. It’s enough to spin her into terrifying fear for her sister, even when she thinks maybe she is imagining everything. She doesn’t trust herself, so we as the reader can’t trust her either.
The other thing I really enjoyed in this book is Robins use of subplots as a distraction. Every time we focus on the relationship between Felix and Tilda, something happens in Callie’s world to pull our attention away. Again, to keep us off balance and unsure. As the reader, we are fully submersed in Callie’s confusion and fear and uneasiness. We know something is wrong, but we don’t know what. Until the end.
And what an ending! I never saw it coming, and frankly, it is brilliant. Never again will I make judgements based on preconceived notions of who I think a character should be. As the mystery unfolds chills were going down my spine. Because there is violence, and abuse, and obsession, and manipulation. It’s all there. But while we were all looking one way, the truth blindsides us from the other direction. Even more haunting, the truth was in front of us all along.
Jane Robins wrote a solid and terrifying psychological thriller. It will find it’s way into your brain, changing the way you think, the way you look at things all around you. This is a book you will want everyone around you to read. So they can share in the shock. So you can have someone to talk to and dissect it with. This book will stay with you. Hands down and easily one of the best thrillers I’ve read this summer. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
White Bodies goes on sale September 19.
Thank you so much Touchstone Books for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!