Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

8427679Publication Date: May 5, 2009

Synopsis:
When Libby Day was seven, she put her 15-year old brother in prison by testifying that she witnessed him murdering the rest of her family.

Twenty-four years later, she begins doubting that what she saw that night was the truth. As people bring in new evidence and challenge her past, Libby discovers that her family had more secrets than she knew, and more darkness that she was willing to admit.

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Read: June 15, 2018

Thoughts:
One thing I’ve learned in the past year is that Gillian Flynn is not the mystery author for me. I have one more book of hers left, and I’m done after that. Not only do I find her incredibly overrated, I’ve also never felt the desire to keep reading her work after I’ve started it. The only reason why I started reading this was because I wanted to see if one of her less popular books would be better suited to my reading tastes.

I struggled with this book in much of the same way that I struggled with Gone Girl when I read it last summer. I think that my issue with Gillian Flynn books (as far as I can tell), is that I don’t connect with or care about her characters. I don’t always need to like a character to enjoy or appreciate the book, but I can’t even begin to care about any of these characters in the first place.

Maybe it’s the way her characters are naturally so pessimistic, or it’s because they appear to have few (if any) redeeming qualities, but I can’t bring myself to care about them or what they’ve been through. Even with other books, I’ve met unlikeable characters that I’ve learned to understand and grow to like because they were well-written and well-developed, but that’s not the case with this. I found it so hard to care about Libby and what had happened to her, despite knowing that I should at least feel some sympathy for her.

The plot is dark, which I liked, but it became clear quite quickly that the ending wouldn’t be satisfying to me. There were several attempts at a red herring that I just didn’t buy, and there wasn’t enough motive for me to think that just anyone could have done the murders. The more we dove into the history of the Day family, the more I realized that there would be unanswered questions and unsatisfying conclusions. There were several points in which I felt like the book could have turned toward a better direction, but then it kept going down the same path.

One of the things that I think was handled poorly was the clear mental illness representation in the story. As the book goes on, it becomes clear that Libby’s brother has some kind of mental illness that gets totally glossed over. People called it “devil worship” and kept insisting that he was sick and twisted – never once allowing for the possibility that his character could use some medical help. Even during his jail time, it is apparent that whatever he struggles with has not gone away, but there are no mentions of him seeking or being offered help in any way. In fact, one of the last things we hear about him in the book is that he’s still struggling with the same thing that he struggled with in his youth.

I find it difficult to have anything positive to say about this. The ending was rather disappointing as I figured out what the twist was with about 100 pages to spare, and continued reading to find out if I was right. There wasn’t much in the story that surprised me, and if something was revealed to be a twist, I wasn’t very impressed. Perhaps it’s because I don’t care about the story or the characters, or it could just be that Gillian Flynn has been too hyped up for me when I’ve read significantly better mysteries and thrillers by other authors.

I was told by an acquaintance that a movie adaptation was made from this. I think I’m going to watch it (like I did with Gone Girl) to see if I like that better. Although, if it’s anything like the Gone Girl adaptation, I can’t say that I will. Still, it might make for a fun comparison to see which medium worked better for the story and which version did better in different ways.

Character(s):
Libby grew to be annoying mostly because she was just a terrible person. There are some terrible-people characters that I like, but she was in a whole different grouping. I just found her to be irritating because of what she chose to do with her life and how she looked at people.

Overall:
2 stars. Gillian Flynn is not for me (and yet I will still read her last novel to say that I’ve read all of her work) and I wouldn’t recommend her to anyone. She’s put me in 2 reading slumps in 2 different summers, and all I want is to finish her last book so that I can happily donate her books to someone who might actually enjoy her work.

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