Mini Review Monday #45

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.

First up, I’d like to talk about The Things We Don’t See by Savannah Brown. Thank you so much to Charlotte Winstone at Penguin Random House Children’s UK for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

When fledgling singer Roxy Raines vanishes from the tiny resort of Sandown, the island’s locals refuse to talk about it to any outsiders, dismissing Roxy as a teenage runaway.

Thirty years later, seventeen-year-old Mona Perry is convinced there’s something more sinister at play. Armed with a suitcase and a microphone – to record her findings for her podcast’s listeners – the troubled teen is on a deadline: one hot summer is all she has to get to the bottom of Roxy’s story.

But as Mona gets drawn into the strange goings on of this isolated community, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems. Least of all Mona’s own past, and the disappearance of someone else, someone much closer to her…

How far will she go to uncover the truth?

Publication Date: 24th June

TW: death, disappearance, murder, abuse, mentions of sexual assault

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Things We Don’t See is a twisted little tale, gorgeously woven together by Brown’s glitteringly ambiguous prose. This is a story enveloped in smoke and secrets, with the fog of the past obscuring the events of the present. 

Mona is such a compelling main character. I loved getting to delve inside her head, even though it was often a dark place to tread. She’s a sarcastic, spikey person who has deliberately isolated herself from the world, but through the story she allows certain people to get to see a little bit of her true self. While the central mystery is a key plot driver, this is also undeniably her story. Mona’s narrative is one shrouded in mist and as a reader, you can’t help but want to uncover her truth. This leads to a nuanced and unsettling exploration of family, abuse and trauma. Mona’s past heavily influences her actions in the present and there’s a particular sequence near the end of the book that reveals the truth, which I absolutely adored. It invokes a lot of natural imagery, but also has this slightly surreal and psychologically disturbing feel to it. Brown includes plenty of subtle references that suddenly take on a whole different context in that moment and we finally realise Mona’s connection to the case. Her underlying motivations for investigating are fascinating and contribute to her sometimes unreliable nature as a narrator. 

Beyond Mona, the mystery of what happened all those years ago to Roxy is a gripping story. It is a little bit quieter, allowing for the atmosphere to build around you even more. That being said, there are plenty of amazing twists and turns in store. This is a complex story, with plenty of juicy little details slowly building together a complete picture. The story is tinged with grief and the aftershocks of traumatic events. This seems to feed into the very fabric of Sandown. I absolutely loved this setting, as it felt so hostile and claustrophobic. This is a tight knit small town, with plenty of secrets lurking under its surfaces. That physical isolation and socially menacing tone undercuts every piece of the action, amping up the tension even more and creating this thick atmosphere that hums with suspense. As a reader, you can almost taste the oncoming storm. 

The Things We Don’t See is an introspective mystery that wonderfully plays on its complex protagonist and rich setting. This is a darker tale of trauma, family and the secrets we may wish had stayed buried.

Next up, I’d like to talk about The Girl in the Headlines by Hannah Jayne. Thank you so much to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The headlines say she killed her family. The truth? She doesn’t remember.

Andrea McNulty goes to sleep on her eighteenth birthday with a near-perfect life: she’s a high school field hockey star, a doted-upon big sister, the beloved daughter of two happy parents. But when she wakes up in a motel room the next morning, unable to remember what happened the previous night and covered in blood, Andi is a fugitive.

According to the news, Andi’s parents were brutally attacked in the middle of the night. Her father is dead, her mother is in a coma, her little brother Josh is missing–and Andi is the prime suspect. Terrified and on the run from the police, Andi teams up with Nate, the sympathetic boy working the motel’s front desk, to find the real murderer. But while the police are getting further from the killer, the killer is getting closer to Andi–closer than she could ever have imagined. 

Publication Date: 6th July

TW: death, blood, violence, murder, kidnapping, abuse

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Girl in the Headlines is the kind of book that makes you feel like you’re walking a tightrope, balancing tension, an unreliable narrator and a razor-sharp plot perfectly. 

Right from that opening hook, I instantly wanted to know everything. That first page is such a tantalizing and thrilling prospect that you just are pulled in and from there, Jayne never really lets you go. You are dropped in pretty much unaware of everything that’s happened, delving straight into the action. This was a really interesting way of telling the story, as it meant that you felt just as dazed and confused as Andrea. You have to piece together the story from little glimpses and details, along with some interwoven flashbacks and memories. 

Jayne keeps this unrelenting pace up throughout the book. Things move at lightening speed, but always within the realms of possibility. The plot is always driving forward and as a reader, you are speeding alongside it. You desperately want to uncover the truth of what happened, just like Andrea. There’s this underlying sense of dread looming over the events of the book and the tension is constantly ratcheted up higher and higher. This means that you will just speed through the pages. As a mystery, this is superb. Jayne has some really clever and shocking twists thrown into the story, which genuinely upend everything you thought you knew before. I love the kind of story that keeps you on your toes and The Girl in the Headlines definitely delivers on that front. 

I really enjoyed following Andrea’s narrative voice. This is an unreliable narrator that you can’t help but root for. All the way through, you can never be entirely sure that she is telling you the whole truth. Her voice is rather fragmented and I loved guessing whether this was her deliberately manipulating me, or if it was genuine memory loss. It adds this psychological dimension to the mystery, as you follow her along. Jayne cleverly misdirects and surprises you throughout, so keep your eyes peeled. 

The Girl in the Headlines is a solid YA mystery packed with ambiguity and tension. 

Finally, I’d like to shout about The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass. Thank you so much to Sam Bonner at Penguin Random House International for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

Publication Date: 13th July

TW: death, racism, school shooting, bullying, physical abuse, sexual abuse, homophobia


My Thoughts:

The Taking of Jake Livingston is a fantastic addition to the YA horror canon, combining shocking thrills with razor-sharp social commentary. 

This is a book that genuinely sent shivers down my spine. It is creepy, scary and deeply unnerving, like any good horror should be. I liked how Douglass would often place those lurking moments of dread in seemingly normal scenes, so your guard is constantly up and prepared for danger. At its core, this is a story about identity and family. This is undeniably Jake’s story, as he finds confidence in himself and the fledgling shoots of a romance on the horizon. He has to build up confidence in his own being in order to fight his inner demons and those external monsters as well. I liked how Douglass presented his abilities in the lens of a typical high school student. However, he is also careful to demonstrate how his Blackness and queerness intersect with his abilities to further ostracise him from his peers. They are facets of himself that his peers use against him, resulting in internal turmoil and suffering for Jake. 

I particularly loved the way Douglass blended the horror aspects with social commentary. He discusses being Black and part of the LGBTQ+ community and how these two identities intersect and affect Jake’s life. Through the character of Sawyer, Douglass also examines media perceptions of school shooters. There’s often a search for a motive or explanation of these horrific actions and while Sawyer’s trauma is addressed and explored, it is made abundantly clear that this does not fully explain his actions nor does it excuse them in any shape and form. Often in discussions about white shooters, there is a focus on mental health. Douglass rips this argument to shreds through his narrative, exposing the brutal violence these actions exemplify and instead emphasising the effect they have on the victims instead. 

The Taking of Jake Livingston is a book that weighs heavily on your mind and showcases the power of the YA horror genre, with an intersectional, gripping and disturbing story.

5 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #45

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