Jon and Chloe are best friends. They have a favorite food together. They have a secret place together. They have secret feelings for each other. Before Jon can confess his feelings to Chloe, he is kidnapped by his super crazy substitute. The substitute has a weird thing for H.P. Lovecraft, plants, and "saving humanity."
As Chloe mourns the loss of Jon and what could have been, we see her grow up. We watch her become the cool artist girl. She ends up in a relationship with the douche that made fun of Jon when they were younger and, somehow, her thoughts of missing Jon don't keep her from her new beau.
After many years pass, Jon ends up escaping his kidnapper with a new power. It's a power he can't control and a power that puts anyone he has strong feelings for in danger. He tries to reunite with Chloe but he is scared for her safety and the safety of everyone he once knew. So he runs, looking for answers to this new power while having to grow up really fast. He is looking for control of his new power and control of his adulthood. But he is soon being tracked by a HARD BOILED detective who is working on a series of vigilante killings that he thinks are connected.
This is a book about the obsessive nature of love. It is about heartbreak (both kinds). It makes us examine what we would do to save ourselves and the people we love. It makes us ask ourselves if, sometimes, there is even a difference.
Let's start out with this. This book is NOT horror, as it was hyped up to be. It does have some dark and sometimes disturbing aspects, but at its heart, it's a love story mixed with a sci-fi novel. It's suspenseful, it's coming of age, it's a mystery chase. But let's not focus on the label here, this book has so much for everyone.
You know how some authors have dialogue in their books that feels forced and staged? Kepnes is NOT one of those authors. You forget that the characters aren't real people. Everything she writes feels so natural and easy, even the impossible sci-fi parts. All of her characters are built so well. You understand their motives and you feel their pain and their joy. I found myself attached to a few of the characters. The ones I didn't like, were characters that felt like I had met them in my real life and was put off by them for whatever reason.
I loved Jon and Eggs (that's his name, kind of). Jon was trying to grow up long after he should have been and his motives made sense to me. Eggs was a man on a mission that I connected with, though I'll never understand why he steeps his tea for so freaking long. Chloe, however, was one of the people I didn't like in this book. She did so many things that I just didn't understand. She seemed so much like an angsty, self-pitying teen. Why Jon loved her, I'll never know.
The author builds up this intensity and this reunion throughout the whole book. There is this super long, super massive crescendo up to the point when each of the separate characters all come crashing together. And then, it just kind of falls flat. That's what this story was missing for me: a bigger explosion. There was all this build-up and fanfare and then... there is this little spark. It was not the big ending I felt was coming as I read through the book.
A lot of Kepnes fans who loved You and Hidden Bodies will probably be put off by this book. It has it's similarities to the other two books. The social media obsession is there in all three books. The love and obsession is there too. But the differences between Providence, and You and Hidden Bodies feels so purposeful. This book appeals to a different audience. It feels like it was written to connect the mainstream murder/mystery lovers with the Lovecraft loving sci-fi lovers. Speaking of Lovecraft, you don't have to know anything about his works going into this book, because Kepnes does a good job of explaining most of it. But having a little bit of a Lovecraft background is kind of nice.
This book is self-propelled. It makes you want to keep turning those pages until you figure out it's a mystery and that makes it a quick read. But, you'll search for answers in vain. Like a lot of sci-fi books, it's not all tied neatly in a bow. There are a few loose ends, but they are exactly where they should be. The unanswered questions help to make this book memorable.
I'm giving this book 3.75 stars. It loses out on that ending. It was the biggest disappointment for me. The sci-fi parts I loved didn't make up for that let-down.
I won't recommend this book to those that loved You and Hidden Bodies, because you won't be getting another Joe Goldberg story. I will recommend this book to people looking to expand their reading genres into sci-fi. It's like sci-fi lite for mystery romance lovers.
You can find Kallie on Instagram @PageAndParlor