My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When a toy mysteriously vanishes from their household, its very abduction caught on camera, Jack just can’t believe her eyes. Plucked away by a long, skeletal hand, she does the only thing a nine-year-old can do when a monster makes itself known – she tries to gain more proof of its very existence. Her hunt doesn’t go as planned however, and with her brother now involved, events are escalating quickly. Andy is changing, becoming something less than himself, and Jack can only watch him slip away.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity.
Despite my love of first-person perspective, it became apparent from early on that I wouldn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. It came down to one single factor: the main character. I’m a firm believer that books should include characters that are written in ways to intentionally make the readers susceptible to liking or disliking them. I know I love a good villain – someone I’m not supposed to root for, nor feel attached to. It’s for that reason alone that I felt confused with Jack’s very loathsome portrayal. Oftentimes throughout the pages she would veer off from her childhood account and ramble – her higher than thou opinion of herself shining through despite her continuously stating she was the opposite of perfect. It got old extremely fast, and honestly, it was hard to therefore care of what happened to her all those years ago, which was the real shame. Don’t get me wrong, I love female protagonists that can hold their own, even if they’re somewhat aggressive, but in no way, shape, or form, could I understand why she was depicted in such an unflattering light. Take away those sections that didn’t do her any favours, and the story would have been relatively shorter – I daresay I would have preferred less of that extra padding.
If I, for the moment, forget about Jack’s abysmal narration, then it’s what I considered to be a very intriguing tale. I do enjoy creative approaches to ghosts and ghouls, and the Thief was a prime example of a clever imagination. I was glued to the page that described the creature in detail; it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting and that legitimately thrilled me. There were moments I regarded him equal amounts creepy and adorable, but for a child, he definitely was nightmare material. However, just when I was teetering on the edge of becoming fully engrossed, the pace would screech to a halt and I would be forced to tolerate adult-Jack once again. This never-ending circle ultimately damaged my enjoyment, but I think at this point I’ve made my feelings on Jack and her disjointed storytelling abundantly clear.
The heavy emphasis on the broken family dynamic was obviously intended to incite an emotional tether, and whilst I agree it held a note of sadness, I found it difficult to sufficiently care. Certain elements were echoed again and again; how their father wasn’t an altogether bad parent, and how they were both surprisingly independent for their age. This last point was really over-stated, and it seemed like it was being intentionally drilled into me so that I wouldn’t question their half-baked decisions later on. I know I mentioned that I favoured Jack’s history, and I did by a tremendous amount, but I couldn’t ignore the unrealistic direction. I mean, for goodness sake, why not get help when they were in possession of solid proof? It was irrational, and purely for the benefit of the plot.
In conclusion: I really, truly disliked the protagonist. I desperately tried to immerse myself in the story she told, but her first-person POV just damaged any investment I may have briefly experienced. The creature itself was the sole highlight; creative and definitely not a carbon copy. This was my first read of Gillespie’s work, and whilst it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, I look forward to any future titles I find myself in ownership of.
All that time, I’d felt like some kind of clever little hunter, but the reality was quite plain. I was a child, helpless, a mouse cowering between the paws of a cat.
© Red Lace 2018