Whisper to Me - Nick Lake

Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.

Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.

This book is INTENSE! I don't know a single book by Nick Lake that isn't intense, of course, but this one in particular just shook me. The novel, written as an email (albeit a VERY LONG email) to a young man, takes readers on the mind-bending, emotionally raw, and deliciously twisted journey from sanity to insanity and (maybe) back again. Lake explores mental illness (schizophrenia), desire, emotional trauma, and much more, in a complex and nuanced portrayal of relational discord, love, and death. The setting is meticulously crafted, giving a perfect sense of living in a small town near the ocean. The characters are lovingly crafted and their relationships are wonderfully complicated. 

Though this may be seen by some as yet another book about mental illness (which it is), the treatment of schizophrenia and the hearing of voices is treated respectfully. Whisper also features discussion of similarly complex and important issues, such as slut-shaming and victim blaming (Cassie's father encourages her to dress less provocatively so as to avoid being a target for a killer who seems to be targeting sex workers):
"You see the photo in the paper of the last girl who went missing? See what she was wearing in that photo, taken before she left the club? Looking like that I'm not surprised that--" 
"That someone decided to kill her?" 
"That's not what I'm saying. I'm--" 
"Dad," I said. "This is called victim blaming. Girls don't ask to be attacked. Everyone should be able to wear what they want without creepy guys going after them."
One of the issues I had with the writing style, is the use of asterisks instead of writing out swears. I found myself often counting the number of asterisks in an effort to figure out what exactly was being said. I also found the ending (no spoilers, don't worry) to be slightly unfinished. After 530 pages, I was hoping for a bit more resolution of a few of the subplots. Though the stakes were high throughout the whole novel, it almost seemed as though some of those stakes were suddenly not all that important in the end.

That being said, I found this to be a highly engaging read, an important read, and a book that I would definitely recommend to teens and adults alike. Lake's writing is lyrical, his narrative strong, and his characters complex. Much like Emery Lord's When We Collided, this is a book to be savoured and appreciated.


(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out May 3, 2016)




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