Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dark Psychological Thriller A Little Too Dark For Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Abby wakes up in an alley next to a house engulfed in flames, she remembers nothing - not her name, not her age, not her address, not anything. But when a guy tries to help her up, she feels a flicker of ... something. He says his name is Sam, says Abby knows him, says he'll help her. And he does, taking her to a hidden cave in the middle of a lovely forest. It's like something from a fairy tale and sharing this cozy new home with Sam makes her almost delirious with happiness. She doesn't exactly remember the world outside their secret woods, but she trusts Sam, knows he's telling the truth when he says it's not safe for her to venture too far beyond the cave.

It's only after several weeks in the cave that Abby begins to feel uneasy. She loves Sam, but his abrupt mood shifts frighten her. With memories from her former life creeping into her mind, Abby's confused, worried. She doesn't want to anger Sam by asking questions and yet, she needs to know who she is, where she came from, and how she ended up sprawled in an alley next to a burning building. Even if the memories cause her pain, she has to know. The closer Abby gets to the truth, the more she begins to doubt the reliability of her own mind. The questions cramming her brain shouldn't be so confounding, but they are: Who is she, really? Who is Sam, really? What is real? What isn't? Where is safety? Where is danger? As Abby fights to make sense of it all, her fairy tale illusions crumble, leaving only the awful truth and the most important question: How will she escape?

Circle Nine, a debut novel by Anne Heltzel, is a dark, psychological thriller that examines a whole slew of curious paradoxes - identity, dependency, even the phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome. For such a sinister story, the writing really is quite lovely. Still, I found the whole novel depressing and more than a little disturbing. I kept reading since I had to know how the story ended, but I'm not sure I actually enjoyed Circle Nine. Let's just say it unsettled me - a lot - and leave it at that.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of Stolen by Lucy Christopher)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, intense situations and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Circle Nine from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. That review is intenese, well done Susan, definitely adding to my Wishlist.

    Sounds a little like Still Missing and Before I Go to Sleep.

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