I am overly conflicted about this book. There are many aspects I liked about it : the body horror, the government cover up, and the queer aspects just to name a few, but there are many aspects about it that just fell flat for me. In fact I was quite nervous to finish it because quite certain that however it may it that it was going to ruin the entire book for me. I put off the ending,aka the last two chapters, to the point that I finished an entire Pet Sematary audiobook before I finally went back to finish it.
As much as I love darker themed young adult novels, I was really wanting it to be darker than it ended up being . I realize this is a personal issue and had I wanted to read a darker body horror novel there are plenty of adult novels that would have been better suited to my needs. Even so I was still expecting just a bit more from this one.A lot of my issues, though, with this book in particular plot points that to me do not make sense. For instance more than half way through the book an incident with the fence safe-guarding the school from the twisted animals that now roam the woods allows a bear to get inside said fence, and inside the school itself. Under the circumstances, it would still be case for alarm if a normal bear had gotten in. Given that it is twisted by whatever is infecting the island, which turns out at the end to be some parasitic worm thing, it is meant to be a even more terrifying experience was frustrating since Hetty and most of the other girls are able to outrun the bear from room to room and barricade themselves inside said rooms. The latter is at least more believable than the former. During the whole encounter only one girl ,that I recall, actually dies from the whole episode with the bear.
I am not saying the author should have killed off more characters, she is not at all shy to kill characters or least some of them, but the fact remains that some how they are able to outrun the bear when people have hard time running away from "normal" bears in the wild. It just all feel too overly convenient. What should have been a high stacks nerve wrecking scene just to me held no tension whatsoever. Mentioning killing characters, though, the author does rack up quite the body count and yet it doesn't hold the impact, least to me, that the author intended. I will like to state character deaths other than a few instances(aka my favorite character in a given work or a death that comes completely by surprise) rarely do much for me. Here, though, the deaths that do occur suffer from particular aspect of novels that really bug me : killing of faceless,nameless, "unimportant, side character(s). Now I am not saying the death of side characters always come off as "safe bets" or meaningless deaths but here it does. Of the characters that do die, the reader only really gets to know the slightest bit of them based on what Hetty has said about them or the few scenes they are present in, which is not enough in to develop them or they were not develop as well as they should have been. Instead in this book , it feels like the reader should be shocked by the number of death instead of who actual has dies. I felt the same way about the two adults that died and then the boy that dies from Byatt kissing him.Given how little time we get to know them their deaths hold little or no impact. If you don't really give the proper time to really know characters than their deaths just don't mean much .
The only death that would and could of held any meaning the author took back , which is a trend in books and other media that I hate. Will be the first to admit I am not a doctor, but I was pretty sure with how invasive Byatt is removing the worm thing in her arm, how much blood she loses in the process, a fact that Hetty remarks on when Byatt is finally found, and the fact that Byatt is left alone who knows how long with no medical assistance she would not still be alive .Least it doesn't seem like she should still be alive. I think it would have much more impactful to have her die, have Hetty deal with that grief and pain of not being able to get there in time, which it seems for a moment she is than to be oh no Byatt is actual alive, very very weak by somehow still alive.
Another aspect of the novel that sort of threw me was the romantic subplot. I love that there is a queer relationship in this and other than the body horror was an element that made me pick it up in the first place,but I am still confused by the two that get together. From the start, was pretty sure Byatt and Hetty were meant to be the romantic pair given how close they seemed in every scene they shared together and given the book was from their two points of view. I have nothing against power close friendships and given what has happen the students may cling tighter to each other more than ever before,but it just felt like more than friendship between the two of them , least from Hetty's chapters. No, though, seems Reese and Hetty are the ones that get together, which just really confused me. Hetty spends way less time with her, at one point Reese tries to choke here and for awhile seems like they are not even friends anymore and are not not even talking. I can buy that Byatt and Hetty are just really close best friends . Books need more powerful platonic best friendships they really do. The fact still remains that relationship makes no sense between the two that are paired up in this book. Maybe I was missing subtle clues but to me seems they went from sort of again not even being friends because of Hetty getting boat shift, something Reese really wants to try to find her dad, to kissing and suddenly are sort of together. If this was the plan where were there no chapter from Reese to get to know her more and develop her more?
Overall I enjoyed it enough to finish even if I put off finishing it but I wanted more from it. I really enjoyed the body horror aspects of it and when they were the focus the book was really exciting . I just really wanted more of those aspects I am not faulting it for not being as dark and gritty as I first thought. I get it is young adult and the darker elements have to be toned down in some way for that target audience. Even so what it did do in that respect was great and just again wanted more of it. I was not a fan of the lack of any explanation for the Tox. I was not expecting a full exposition dump since that would have been over the top and annoying , but was expecting something more than was in the book. I get diseases are confusing in real life but was expecting some sort of explanation to parts of it at least in this. Finally as much as I love open endings , when they make sense, the ending felt rushed and abrupt.Was overall just disappointed in a lot of the aspects of this novel. The cover is gorgeous,though