The Mission by Jason Meyers
Kaden Norris's life is shattered when his older brother -- his best friend and hero -- is killed in Iraq. All Kaden has left of Kenny is a letter, urging him to break away from his sheltered life and to go to San Francisco to visit his cousin, James.
Kaden is blown away as James introduces him to a life filled with drugs, sex, and apathy. He goes from extreme high to extreme low, having no idea what to expect. And when Kaden uncovers secrets about his family that have been kept from him for years, his entire world comes crashing down. This may not be the trip his brother had envisioned for him, but it's one Kaden will never forget.
DNF at page 270 out of 361
This book reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye, but somehow even less profound. After 270 pages, not much had happened besides Kaden wandering around San Francisco being stupid and reckless and thinking it made him "rad." I have honestly never heard the word " rad" used so often and so unironically before reading The Mission.
My biggest problem with this book was that I didn't like any of the characters at all. More than that, I just didn't care about them. James Morgan, who could have been a very complex character, only waltzed into the story occasionally to add a bit of drama before becoming irrelevant again. Caralie, the only character I liked even a little, was oversimplified and sexualized.
Kaden's characterization was lazy and conflicting rather than complex. He's described a being both a timid kid with self-esteem issues and as a confident tough guy unafraid to dress like a rapper in rural Iowa. All of Meyers' descriptions of Kaden are scattered and contradictory. He's described as poor enough to wear a coat he found in a parking lot on one page, and fifty pages later as "well-off." He's afraid to kiss his girlfriend but has no issue hooking up with unknown girls.
And every single woman in the book is described in terms of her body. Even Kaden's mother. It was honestly gross, and combined with a disturbing amount of slut-shaming, is a huge reason I'm not finishing this book.
Maybe the end of this book is great and does something to negate the crappiness of the first 300 pages, but I really don't feel like slogging through another 100 pages of drunk, high assholes arguing with each other and acting like that's the best way to live to find out.
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.
I love a good murder mystery, especially one with a big twist. I was certain that The Darkest Corners would deliver the shocking, double-check-your-locks thrills of a good mystery, but it just...didn't.
Not too long after starting the book, I got the feeling that Kara Thomas had read Gillian Flynn's books, decided she wanted to write mysteries too, and then wasn't quite able to write a book that set itself apart. The Darkest Corners has a lot of similarities to Flynn's Dark Places, from the title to the basic plotline (girl witnesses murder as a child and puts a potentially innocent man in jail; years later she must revisit her podunk hometown and re-investigate the murder) to the use of non-police true-crime-junkie groups and prostitutes as sources of information.
I want to make it very, very clear here: I am in no way accusing Thomas of plagiarizing Flynn; I am simply saying that The Darkest Corners emulates Flynn's Dark Places in enough ways that it doesn't really feel like a new story, so there's no need to read both. And if you're only going to read one, it should probably be Dark Places, which is infinitely better written.
The Darkest Corners was interesting enough to keep me reading and didn't lag, but I also think it didn't lag because it didn't spend enough time on things. The relationship between Callie and Tessa - which had been broken for ten years - healed very quickly; major themes, like corruption in the police, were barely touched upon; and all of the events at the end of the book were resolved so rapidly that I hardly had time to start worrying for the characters before they were out of trouble again!
All of that aside, the end of the book was dark and twisted enough to save The Darkest Corners from a 2 star rating. The last few chapters are the only part of The Darkest Corners that readers really see the darkness alluded to in the title; while the rest of the book is implicitly dark, it's overshadowed by teenage politics and randomly inserted backstory from Tessa, to the point that you have to stop and think for a second before you realize just how messed up something is. Maybe that was Thomas' intention, but it's not what I was hoping for from this book, so it only earns 3 stars.
If you're thinking of reading The Darkest Corners as a follow-up to a Gillian Flynn novel, don't waste your time. But if you're looking for a YA-friendly murder mystery with a good twist, you could do worse.
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