Friday, March 11, 2016

Relic by Gretchen McNeil and Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book, or my review itself.

Relic centers around Annie, our narrator, and her boyfriend and their group of friends. They have just graduated high school, and are determined to have a summer of "no regrets" before they separate to attend college. To this end, they lie to their parents, and sneak out to an island to drink and explore the mysterious mines.

This book has a lot of characters and scenarios that have been seen in many books before. There is the strong but insecure main female character, who loves her boyfriend but isn't ready to "go all the way", the ex-girlfriend who is gorgeous but mean, the best friend who worries all the time, the conspiracy theorist who can always score good drugs...

But where McNeil makes her book stand out is the well plotted out mystery and horror that accompany these characters after their ill-fated island trip. After the first few chapters, there is almost constant tension and suspense about just what exactly is going on, and if it can be stopped.

Relic sometimes veers over into overly dramatic territory, with the group of friends concerned that if they don't go all out this summer, one of them may suffer a breakdown in college because they don't know how to be independent and have rule-breaking fun. The romances can also seem a little forced and out of place with all the murder and mayhem happening around them.

But despite its flaws, Relic is a quick, gripping read. McNeil seems to be growing as a writer from her earlier works, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Advance warning: This is not a light read, but it is a good one. It centers around the titular Jake, who is missing after a school shooting. The police and neighbors seem to instantly think the worst of Jake, and thus are searching for him as a suspect, not a boy in need of help. But the narrator, Simon, Jake's father (a stay-at-home-dad), is determined to find Jake and help him, whatever he needs.

The story goes back and forth in time, from before Jake was born, when Simon and his wife decided she would go back to work and he would stay at home to take care of their children, to right before the shooting, to after the tragic event. Through this device, Reardon really allows his readers to get to know Jake, Simon, and their family outside of the high-stakes of the present-day events.

Reardon tackles some very heavy topics-violence, what causes it, modern-day witch hunts, innate personalities, parenting, gender roles, and moral codes-and handles them well. Finding Jake gets its point across without being heavy handed or preachy, and is a suspenseful, haunting read.


  1. I love a book with great pacing, but dislike overly dramatic characters. I really should read something by Gretchen McNeil soon though! Finding Jake sounds good though, I like a read with depth that doesn't shy away from tough topics.

    1. I think my one big issue with Gretchen McNeil's books is that the teen characters can come off so overly dramatic and sometimes even stereotypical and/or one dimensional. But the mystery/horror aspects of her books are really interesting and make for a good read. I also think I had such high hopes for Ten (because it's very strongly based off of And Then There Were None, one of my all-time favorite books) that Ten would have had to be absolutely spectacular to be as good as I wanted it to be.

      If you read and like Finding Jake, I highly recommend We Need to Talk About Kevin. It's one of the most intense reads I've ever tackled, but also one of the most well-written books I've ever read.

  2. Finding Jake has an interesting cover.