Today, I’m reviewing the taut, tense and thought-provoking YA mystery All Eyes on Her by L.E. Flynn. Thank you so much to The Nerd Daily for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
You heard the story on the news. A girl and a boy went into the woods. The girl carried a picnic basket. The boy wore bright yellow running shoes. The girl found her way out, but the boy never did….
Everyone thinks they know what happened. Some say Tabby pushed him off that cliff— she didn’t even like hiking. She was jealous. She had more than her share of demons. Others think he fell accidentally—she loved Mark. She would never hurt him…even if he hurt her.
But what’s the real story? All Eyes On Her is told from everyone but Tabby herself as the people in her life string together the events that led Tabby to that cliff. Her best friend. Her sister. Her enemy. Her ex-boyfriend. Because everybody thinks they know a girl better than she knows herself.
What do you think is the truth?
TW: Death, drug use, drink driving, car accident, attempted sexual assault, abortion
This is a complex and extremely thought-provoking YA thriller unlike any other. The writing is just immaculate, with a well-executed mystery at its core and plenty of intriguing twists and turns throughout.
Right from the start Flynn wastes no time in setting up the case, with the opening pages immediately setting the tone of the book. It’s evident that you’re going to have to figure out the puzzle yourself, as tiny pieces are revealed to you and that Tabby is a complex, mysterious and notorious figure. A key message of the book is around our perceptions of people and how our loyalties and inherent biases can distort the truth. Flynn cleverly never really allows you to hear from Tabby herself, only through selected diary excerpts and text messages which have a detached nature, so you don’t really get a glimpse into her true emotions until near the very end. Instead Flynn utilises multiple perspectives to show you different sides of her, but you’re never quite sure which is truly Tabby. This method of story-telling forces you to re-evaluate your own preconceptions and constantly keeps you guessing. You can never really trust anyone, least of all yourself. That kind of reading experience is unparalleled, though the sheer lack of reliability is reminiscent of One of Us is Lying and All Your Twisted Secrets.
Flynn’s use of narration is really interesting and forms a key part of the plot. The use of multiple narrators allows you to see different sides of the story and how different characters interpret different events. There’s a really intriguing discussion around how we can all twist events to suit our own narrative and how this is often done in the media. The media becomes its own sort of character, a living breathing organism, that affects how people view Tabby and is in turn open to manipulation by other parties. Also, much of the novel is told through a second person narration, making you an active participant in the story and therefore making it so you can’t help but get involved and invested in the story.
The writing style felt detailed, vibrant and intriguing, adding to the realistic feeling of the book. It’s so smooth and enveloping, you’ll fly through the book as you can’t help but get caught up in the tangled web. In addition to this, the feminist tones of the book were brilliant to see. Flynn doesn’t hesitate in calling out sexist double standards, particularly about girls being pitted against one another for male attention or how girls often carry a sense of shame for having abortion, reporting sexual assault or having sex, but boys can get off scot free. There’s a more intense scrutiny of female behaviour and they’re more likely to be critiqued for in, which extends to media portrayals in which there is a polarised dichotomy of the cold-hearted killer or the sweet innocent victim. Flynn highlights how there is no room for moral ambiguity or complexity, instead showing how society often prefers to pigeon-hole.
The actual mystery is impressively well-constructed, with really interesting twists and turns that are genuinely surprising. Throughout, you’re constantly questioning whether Tabby did it or not. This leads to an intriguing and stimulating ending that may leave you with more questions than answers.
All Eyes on Her is a scintillating mystery that tears down patriarchal standards and leaves you pondering the world around you.
Here are links to Carrds talking about many of the world’s current events and how you can help. Also, I’ve linked here the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support, but also here is a list of resources to aid Anti-Racism work in the UK, as well as UK specific places to donate to. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions.