Publication Date: April 19, 2017
Meredith finds an old VHS tape while going through boxes from her childhood. On the tape, she finds a video of herself saying strange things, telling a story she doesn't understand. And on the video is her mother, who disappeared 25 years ago.
The story Meredith hears herself telling dates back to a murder almost 30 years ago. As she begins digging into the case of Cara, the murdered young woman, Meredith finds a more tangled story than she could have ever imagined.
30 years ago, Cara was an aspiring actress living with her best friend. But the longer she lived there, the more complicated her life became and the darker the people around her appeared to be.
Date Read: April 8, 2019
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I'd had this on my Audible list for awhile now and thought that it would be an easy read because it was less than 10 hours long. I don't think I even looked at the synopsis before starting the audiobook, but I must've looked at it at some point because I was interested enough to download it.
Right off the bat, I wasn't a fan of the writing style. The book starts with Meredith going through old boxes and finding a VHS tape, and for some reason, that's a super dramatic moment. Meredith finds herself pulled to the VHS tape in ways that shouldn't be possible if someone just came across a VHS. It's not like coming across a unicorn, there's no need to be dramatic about it. The way the book is written, normal things are dramatized to the point of being ridiculous. There's absolutely no reason for a VHS tape to cause fear and dread just because it's in a box. At this point, Meredith hadn't even realized it was filmed by her missing mother yet, she was just scared of a VHS she found in a box.
The dramatic way the story was told felt like I was expected to also find everything super dramatic when it actually wasn't. There was no need for all the characters to be and react so dramatically about everything, and there was absolutely no need for them to act like the world was ending. Meredith's reactions to everything were so extreme and do-or-die that it was hard to take her seriously as an almost 30-year old woman. Also, for someone her age, she seemed to have very little understanding of how normal things worked. She was constantly getting in the way of the police investigation because she thought she understood how things were supposed to be done, she made rash decisions, and she never stopped to consider the gravity of the situation she was putting herself and other people in. Without actually knowing anything about the original murder, she made a ton of assumptions about everything and never took the time to consider that things might be different.
We also get half the book from Cara's perspective before her death. 30 years ago, we follow her life with an insufferable best friend and a romantic relationship that is weird and toxic on so many levels. At first, this was kind of nice to see a normal human being functioning well, but then her storyline got weird too and I was just so done with the book.
It's one thing to tell the story of messed up characters, it's another thing for these characters to have absolutely no reason for their behavior. While listening to the book, I felt like I was expected to just sit there and while they made bad choices and certain characters acted out because it somehow made some kind of sense. In particular, Cara's boyfriend was a total dumpster fire of a character. From the moment we met him, he was abrasive, rude, inappropriate, completely intolerable, and super sketchy. Yet they still managed to be in a relationship for at least a few months. None of it made sense. He was clearly a terrible person with zero redeeming qualities and zero explanation for how violent and disturbing his thoughts were, but Cara saw something in him that she liked enough to date him and sleep with him for months.
The plot really wasn't great either. The whole time, we're told the results of the trial for Cara's murder and led to believe a bunch of stuff that obviously wasn't true. Each twist that was supposed to make a big impact felt cheap and pointless. None of the plot points felt like they were going to wow me. I knew the effect they were supposed to have, but it fell so far short of my expectations and face-planted into the ground. If you're going to spend the whole book telling us that someone who was tried for a crime is and isn't guilty at the same time, you're going to need a lot of convincing evidence to make the reader feel torn between two sides. But if you don't have that evidence, then the whole thing kind of flops. This flopped.
Let's also take a moment to talk about how disturbing Cara's boyfriend was. He's a POV character introduced a little later in the book, and we get to see how things have unfolded for him after her death. Being in his head made him significantly less appealing, which I didn't think was possible, and left me feeling so uncomfortable and disturbed. He was violent for absolutely no reason, angry at everything, and incredibly petty and vindictive. His first reaction to things not going his way was to imagine violence. His desire for revenge was completely irrational considering that he put himself into the original situation in the first place (for absolutely no good reason, I might add), and he devolved at such a rapid rate that I didn't understand how he was still able to make somewhat logical decisions. And throw in the fact that he's a stalker, cause why not?
There's little to no character development throughout this book for all of the characters involved. They start in one place and pretty much stay there the entire time. There's no evidence that they've grown, changed, or improved at all by the time we get to the end of the story. I think that it was implied that some changes took place, but since I didn't get to see it, I don't think it actually happened. They were all flat, stagnant people.
The end of this book didn't make a whole lot of sense. Suddenly, I was being given explanations that I knew were supposed to tie things together, but it only left me with more questions. Connections were being thrown about wildly and in every direction possible. The big twist at the end fell flat because it was so predictable. People were doing things that normal people would NEVER even think about doing, and it was all passed off as normal. The whole climactic scene was one of the most unrealistic and absurd endings I've ever read to a mystery novel taking place in the real world. I thought I couldn't be let down any more until I got to the very end, and it proved that I could feel even more dislike toward this book.
Very few things about this book made sense to me. It felt like so many things were jumbled together in an effort to make it seem cool or surprisingly, but it wasn't executed well. The end didn't feel like an end. I wanted it to be better than it was, and I felt disappointed by this book.
Meredith was one of the most annoying adult characters I've read in quite awhile. There are so many things about the way she acts that an adult should never do. Her lack of consideration for other people and for consequences make her reckless and irresponsible. The way she interferes with the police investigation by assuming that she can just do anything without any repercussions shows how little she cares about other people. And the fact that she asked a police detective to lie to his superiors shows how little regard she has for the law and how little she understands of the way things work. Also, people keep calling her "Mary?" Maybe that's how the narrator was reading "Mere," but I've never heard a nickname for Meredith be "Mary."
Christopher Jay made me so uncomfortable the whole time. He clearly needed psychiatric help, with the way he targeted people, the violent thoughts and actions, and his fixation on certain people. It was disturbing for reasons that I don't think the author intended. She likely meant for him to just be creepy, but he reached a whole new level with the way he obsessed over the same woman for 30 years, planned his revenge against her, and why he targeted her in the first place. His logic was not only completely out the window, it showed how unstable he was from the very beginning.
Isabel was annoying too. Her pretentious nature was so frustrating to be around. I don't understand how anyone can enjoy being around her when EVERYTHING is about her. I don't believe that she actually cares about anyone outside of herself, nor do I think she's really capable of it. Her insistence that she's right about everything goes to show that she's never had to deal with people disagreeing with her or telling her that she's wrong. And how she made it 50+ years like that, I have no idea.
Cara was nice at first, but she quickly grew boring. The way she made decisions wasn't very sound, especially when it came to her boyfriend. It wasn't until the end of her storyline that I felt like she was beginning to grow and redeem herself, but by then, it was too late for her.
1 star. Don't pick up this book. Just don't.