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I Belong

Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

ComplicitTitle: Complicit

Author: Stephanie Kuehn

Genre: YA Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: June 24, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages

ISBN-10: 1250044596 (St. Martins Press)

ISBN-13: 978-1250044594 (St. Martins Press)

Reviewed by: Zed


Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller Complicit from Stephanie Kuehn, the William C. Morris Award–winning author of Charm & Strange.

Quick & Dirty: An almost psychological thriller type read about two siblings who are so much more than they first appear to be.

Opening Sentence: My phone is ringing.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

My first impression of Complicit was that it wasn’t as good as the other books about mental issues I’ve read of late. This is probably unfair given that I have read some pretty awesome books such as Bone Gap and Alice and the Fly, so it’s unfortunate for Complicit that the bar had already been set so high. Nonetheless, I think a book about mental issues, especially when told in the first person, needs to be fantastic. Since it is an incredibly difficult topic, only the best should attempt it.

At the beginning, it seemed like the author was trying too hard to portray Jamie’s mental problems, making them come across unreal. His general timidity and shyness bordered on irritating, especially because he had this passive attitude to life where he tried to keep everyone happy by lying.

“Hear what, Mom?” I ask. I call Angie Mom because that’s what she likes and because it’s so rarely the thought that counts. That’s dishonest on my part, I know, but if I had to pick one quality to define me, it’s this-I can’t stand to hurt other people’s feelings. Not saying what I mean is sometimes the best way I know how to be kind.

However, as the story continued I realised there’s a lot more going on with Jamie than meets the eye. In fact, it became more of a psychological thriller than someone who has a conversion disorder. The chapters became more thrilling, creepier and confusing.

I try smiling back but it’s weird. Sometimes the things Jenny says are so nice they can make me feel sad. Like right now. It’s my own personal paradox I guess-either my brain doesn’t know how to be happy or my heart doesn’t know how to let me.

Cate’s character was excellently developed. I would have liked to see more of her in the book, rather than hearing of her from others, most of which was untrue or partially true, which is usually worse. What I loved most about this book is that no one is who they seem, the suspense and secrets brought the story to life.

Another character I wished we learned more of was Angie because I didn’t quite understand her role in it all. Angie’s own twins died hence why she adopted Jamie and Cate, and although Cate mentioned Angie getting very upset when she spoke of her real mother and hiding her mother’s pictures and memories, I didn’t see Angie making a huge effort in Jamie’s life anyway. Plus, she kind of left Cate to rot in prison, which doesn’t indicate her motherly love…Was she suffering from denial because of the loss of her own children?

This was one of those books that deliberately confused the reader. In some ways that’s good, because it gave the feel of a complete mess, which is what Jamie’s mind is, but on the other hand there were times when it felt a little too forced and unbelievable. The story was really good but as aforesaid it didn’t live up to the high expectations that the recent books on mental illnesses have set.

P.S. The ending was pretty cool (no spoilers)!

Notable Scene:

Oh, oh, oh. I lost it them. I couldn’t help it. I put my head against my knees, curled up like a pill bug, and wept. For this sorrowful scrap of fate I’d been born into. For my mom whom I’d barely known, but who might’ve died in some horrible way I no longer understood.

But most of all, for my sister who was doing God knows what and heading down a similar path of self-destruction.


FTC Advisory: St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Complicit. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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