BLACK IRIS by Leah Raeder
NA Contemporary Romance
Beautiful prose with a complex storyline, though perhaps overcomplicated by its timelines.
The hazard of switchback time, let alone more than two timelines, is that clarity is essential. It’s very easy to lose yourself in BLACK IRIS, and if you think that you’ll muddle through without being cognizant of the dates at the start of each chapter, then you’re wrong. Raeder’s prose is effervescent and her characters immediately compelling, it’s just hard to keep what everyone knows and doesn’t know straight from about halfway through onward. Part of the satisfaction in a complex plot is being able to unfurl it with the characters; here it felt like we were robbed of the rush of discovery by never being given the clues we needed to scent it in the first place. Some revenges are clear and very satisfying, others blindside us and seem too brutal until a reason is revealed conveniently in-scene. Laney’s addiction and drug use is carefully fleshed out and her relationship with Blythe burns on the page.
An immensely satisfying story of female friendship and romance that explores the dark places of the human psyche without losing its footing on the way down, even if its bloated plot occasionally stumbles.
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven
This was one of those books that I was warned about before I read it. I went into it knowing how it was going to end, and that’s probably why this is a 2 stew and not a 1 stew.
Niven attempts to handle both manic-depression and suicide in this book, and both fall flat. I was hoping for a thoughtful struggle to stay alive and the necessary humor to buoy yourself out of the terrible times, but Finch’s darkness is balanced with Manic Pixie Dream Boy antics, mostly laughable. It is hard and uncomfortable to dig into this, but for a POV character I expected better than flamboyant declarations of suicide and none of the wonder, hope, or terror that you feel just as keenly as self-destruction. Finch and Violet’s relationship felt contrived–you could see the hand of the author too clearly moving them together– and Finch himself felt like he served more as a vehicle for Violet’s own enlightenment at the end than a character in his own right. It seemed like this was written more to work out the author’s own personal issues as a survivor of a significant other’s suicide than to dig deep into the mind set of self-destructive behaviors and present an accurate mirror.
There were some good scenes and nice feats of language, but without the necessary depth to make death an understandable though tragic consequence of suicide, this is not a book on suicide I’d recommend.