Review: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

For a McMahon book this was surprisingly uplifting but also contained what I consider to be her signature build up of dread. The story is told through multiple points of view and at first I wasn’t sure I liked it but as I started to see the pattern it made more sense. The points of view and experiences of each of these women matters deeply to the theme of the story – the way women viewed as different or on the outside are treated, particularly by the men whose control they chafe under or against.

I should warn you that this book may make you feel like you too could build a house – haunted or otherwise – and I hope you are quickly dissuaded of this notion. We also have more houses than people to live in them so you’d also be wasteful (end rant)

The relationships in this book were an interesting dynamic and I think they made me more stressed than the ghosts. Helen and Nate and how they were each haunted and if their marriage will survive (Nate is a skeptic to his detriment and Helen is a know it all), Olive and her father, Olive and Riley (a family full of pain and secrets), and the growth of one between Helen and Olive. Our main ghost is Hattie Breckenridge, a woman hanged as a witch, and everything is set in motion by her power and the curse of her murder. There’s just so much to tackle here and talk about thematically but I don’t want to spoil it!

This is a solid read and fans of McMahon will feel at home here, but this is definitely a novel that would appeal to readers who don’t usually read books about hauntings. The emotional core of the story is about the bonds between people and healing from loss and betrayal. It covers the way women have been treated over time and the vicious response to those who did not follow societal expectations. It’s about finding a way to communicate with the people you love. Olive experiences a strange coming of age as well but it’s easy to see yourself in her frustrations, anger, and fear. She frustrates the heck out of me but I also realize teenage girls can be totally irrational. It’s about the lines that connect mothers to daughters and the legacies passed on whether we know it or not. 

This was a 4.5 star read for me, as some of the overall structure took me out of the flow of the story even if I eventually could appreciate what it was meant to do and the stories the reader needed to see. 

Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

I did a buddy read of A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo in February, and ended up reading the whole book in one day on the 17th. Since V was born it had been a long time since I’d had the time and the inclination to do that, which if you’ve ever had an infant should tell you a lot about my enjoyment of this book. 

Female friendships are fucked up. I think almost every woman has a story of a relationship that was more complicated than they can explain – maybe there is a romantic dynamic, a weird powerful jealousy or sense of competition, an intense secret world that you build with another person and you feel threatened when someone else infringes on it. That’s this book. While most of those experiences don’t involve murder, I think we need more of these stories.

I’m going to clarify that while we need more stories with this dyamic, this is also written to be a thriller and I think a good example of a toxic friendship, as well as a very toxic romantic relationship.

Because I have to start by saying that I think everything is Margot’s fault. Girl is a big old c-word. She is incredibly controlling of her friends and Angie as her girlfriend. While I do think Jess gets a little petulant because of her feelings about Angie, most of her anger and concern are valid. The novel is also a good example of how very difficult it is to tell our friend they are in an abusive relationship – because we still struggle to accept that being excessively controlling and causing a partner to feel guilt is abuse – no physical harm necessary. Margot’s actions towards others initiated this chain of events and even though the end really surprised me, I still blame her and she’s definitely either an all caps K on the Teen Creeps scale, if not into full on Vera territory.

This book is a solid thriller with an emotional punch. Jess is a good character in that you understand her and are also frustrated by her. You definitely doubt her and find yourself believing she’s capable of murder. 

I gave this 4 stars because I wanted more and I felt like something was missing, but I would definitely recommend it. I hope Malinda Lo writes more teen thrillers because this is so well done. It’s solidly YA, versus being an adult thriller written about teenage girls. That’s an important distinction and a hard thing to shape, and shape well.