So when I saw that her newest book, Unnatural Deeds, was on Net Galley (way back in June), I jumped for the chance to read it early.*
* This post was actually written way back in June
Cyn Balog’s Unnatural Deeds
Sourcefire Books, 2016
What It’s About:
Vic is an outcast. A “new kid” at St. Ann’s high school, she prefers to keep to herself. She blames the anxiety that becomes overwhelming. But when a new student comes gliding into the school — Z — Vic wants nothing more than to be noticed, especially by him. And boy, does Z notice her.
Z strikes up a friendship with Vic, which she almost begins to obsess over. (Opinion: That’s natural, since Vic has been so alone for so long.) As Vic and Z bond, Vic’s relationship with her boyfriend and next-door-neighbor, Andrew, suffers. She pulls away from Andrew, wanting more than what he can give her. (You see, Andrew can’t leave the house due to stifling agoraphobia.)
Vic starts to blossom under Z’s friendship. She begins to exercise and even auditions for the school play, Macbeth, where she stars as Lady Macbeth. But, it’s not all is happily-ever-after. You see, there was a murder in the small town of Duchess, Maine. And the novel opens with Vic laying in a ditch on the side of the broken, broken and bruised. Vic is voice-recording a story to Andrew, apologizing for what she’s done to him.
Balog starts each chapter with a newspaper clip, an interview with one of the minor characters and a police officer, and text messages. But Balog doesn’t give the reader any hint of what really happens through these snippets, which leaves the reader with a major twist ending! (No spoilers here…but maybe after the cut.)
What I Thought:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the way the story was being told – with Vic telling Andrew the story, starting with her first meeting Z and then how everything became uncontrollable from that. But as I continued reading, the flow really worked. It allowed the first person POV and Vic’s perspective, in particular, and gave it purpose. It wasn’t quite like a letter, but it helped for Vic to have someone to talk to.
I did enjoy the chapters starting with little snippets of what happened in Duchess. It was enough to give purpose to the story Vic was telling, but it never was too much that I guessed what was coming at the end.
The Characters: I liked Z. I don’t know what it was about him, but something drew me to him as a character. Maybe it was because we saw Z from Vic’s perspective, but he was charming and wrapped in a ball of mystery. But at the same time, I was angry at him when he was ignoring Vic and hanging out with Parker, the Queen Bee.
The more Vic (and therefore the reader) learns about Z, the more sympathetic he becomes to the reader. And you just want to hug him.
Andrew was an interesting character. He’s set up as Vic’s boyfriend. He’s safe for her, as they’ve known each other since they were seven (nearly 10 years). He doesn’t leave the house due to crippling agorophobia. And he understands Vic. Again, he’s sympathetic because of his relationship with his step-father, who abuses him. Like Z, there’s something mysterious about him. (Which leads to one of the big twists at the end…)
Now, for Vic. Vic is understandable. And when you finally reach the end of the novel, after the climax of plot, she becomes even more understandable. She’s lonely, but yearns to have more. So you can almost understand why she clings to Z and his attention. I don’t want to say too much about her, because it’s part of the plot.
The Plot: OK, so I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t really sure what the main plot was here, until I reached the climax of the plot. I just went along for the ride because I knew there had to be something special about the plot, I just had no idea what. And man, was I freaking thrown for a loop!
In fact, when I finally got to the end, this is how I felt:
— Ashley Supinski (@ashleysupinski) June 21, 2016
But it was a good “Dammit.” Satisfying.
I don’t want to spoil you, because the ending is really what makes this novel amaze-balls. I didn’t see it coming and I liked that. I had convinced myself that something else was going to happen at the end to bring about the idea of murder and Vic being so hurt. I was so glad I was wrong. (Because my thoughts were predictable.)
Narratively, there’s a flow of plot progression. It’s really smooth and easy to read. I found myself wanting to keep reading to know what would happen next. I was intrigued and engrossed all at once.
Honestly, I’d recommend this book based purely on the fact that the ending was so amazing.
Setting: I love that it was set in Maine, home of Stephen King. The novel was definitely reminiscent of something King might write, if he toned down the horror and wrote for young adults.