Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

Title: If You're Lucky
Author: Yvonne Prinz
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Published Date: 20 October 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this book through NetGalley from Algonquin for review.

Is Georgia’s mind playing tricks on her, or is the entire town walking into the arms of a killer who has everyone but her fooled?

When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his whole life?

Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying.

As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist–or to see a deadly truth that no one else can.
(summary from Goodreads)

While not the mystery I was hoping for, Prinz paints a heart-pounding portrayal of paranoia.

If You're Lucky is a seriously fast-paced read. I was surprised at just how quickly I read this book. It jumps right in and never really slows down. In part, I can appreciate that. I do like a quick and easy read that doesn't drag the story out. But this is also a detriment to If You're Lucky because I simply wanted more. Prinz didn't so much build up to a climax as zoom right through it all. There really isn't much mystery to this book. Sure, Georgia is schizophrenic and suffers paranoid delusions so you're meant to be questioning what is actually real and what is not, but it was pretty clear. So right away that necessary tension and suspicion is missing. Rather than wondering about the who's, the why's and the how's and being suitably awed by the answers, I was just waiting for everyone else to catch up and so I wasn't as emotionally invested in If You're Lucky as I could've been. Unless you count the frustration. I was very frustrated that no other character ever questioned Fin. Even if he's not an actual murderer, if some guy began trying to replace my dead brother/son/boyfriend I wouldn't accept him with open arms to ease my grief, I'd be freaking angry. So it annoyed - and bored - me how easily every single character fell for Fin's charms. If just one other character was wary of his motives - not outright suspecting, just wary! - I could have appreciated this story just a little more. Plus I wanted more resolution at the end. When I watch mysteries I always want resolution when it come to the doubters - those that believe a suspect is too nice or 'normal', or don't support the victim, like Georgia. It was the same for If You're Lucky. Georgia deserved more, but instead the ending is rushed. It's over, so life goes on, the end. Ultimately I found it dissatisfying. 

What is done really well is Georgia's descent into paranoia when she chooses to stop taking her medication. I can see how Prinz tried to create a mystery in terms of Fin's guilt versus Georgia's delusions. At first Georgia trusts Fin, even develops feelings for him that he doesn't return, so it's easy to assume she could be wrong. It just didn't develop into more than that. The idea of a killer taking on their victim's life is not original, and Prinz didn't really bring anything new to this to make it unique. But what does captivate is her disquieting portrayal of the impact of paranoid delusions. Georgia's thought processes, her actions, her emotions all get caught up in this paranoia, and as the story is told through her point of view, we're caught up in it too. At times the tension was heart-racing. Georgia's grief at the loss of her brother is also poignant. But Georgia never had a voice outside her illness. It was kind of the be all end all of Georgia's personality, which was disappointing. And then there's Fin, who was really quite creepy and at times showed a cruelty that made my skin crawl. This book would have benefited from a deeper look at Fin, I think. There are elements to If You're Lucky that do work and if they were fleshed out and developed into a truly thrilling mystery, this book could have been everything it wanted to be.

If You're Lucky has the makings of an intense read but it just didn't come together. There's no real suspense, but Prinz does delve headfirst into paranoia to create a darker narrative. 




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