ARC Book Review: PERFECTLY PREVENTABLE DEATHS by Deirdre Sullivan

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in pale khaki on navy with green leaves and white flowers around
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for PERFECTLY PREVENTABLE DEATHS: title in yellow on navy surrounded by leaves, flowers, a stag's head and foxes

Everyone in Ballyfran has a secret, and that is what binds them together…

Fifteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfran, a strange isolated town, a place where, for the last sixty years, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains.

As distance grows between the twins – as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline begins to understand her own nascent witchcraft – Madeline discovers that Ballyfrann is a place full of predators. Not only foxes, owls and crows, but also supernatural beings who for many generations have congregated here to escape persecution. When Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be – or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

This is a creepy little book that’s more contemporary with a dash of unsettling otherness than a full on fantasy – but uses that to great atmospheric effect.

It is really unsettling at times, thanks in part to the fragmented and at time apparently disconnected sentences used. It’s not what you expect and breaks the flow, putting you on edge. You know there’s something going on, something hidden below the surface, but not what. And the book rarely ends up actually explaining it, so there are more unanswered questions than answered. It makes it feel like fighting up a sand dune, unable to get enough purchase as there’s so much obscured. You have enough to understand what’s happening in the now, but not what’s happening in every part of the world – which really helps drive the atmosphere.

At its heart, this is a book about twin sisters, and a manipulative, predatory man taking advantage. It’s about toxic relationships and controlling, isolating behaviour – and how trying to intervene can be turned against you. How there often isn’t a “right choice” to make in those situations where you want to help because it’s such a toxic web.

I’ll be honest, I did not like Catlin. The story is told from Madeline’s perspective, and I am much more like her (quiet and not fond of having to meet new people.) While Catlin can be a wonderful sister, it often felt like it was only when in private, when there wasn’t someone to impress. Otherwise, everything had to revolve around her (and so she makes some truly horrible remarks about Madeline’s sexuality because it’s a conversation that centres Madeline and is about a part of her life that doesn’t need Catlin.) I wanted someone to sit Catlin down and force her to see how self-centred and dismissive she was.

In all, it was a really well crafted book, and I will be interested to read the sequel at some point.

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