What am I reading? In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

This book is complete bullshit, and I’m going to spoil the shit out of it. You’ve been warned.

Synopsis: Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage – the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her. But something goes wrong. Very wrong. And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora.

Sounds awesome, right?

I thought so too. I picked it up in the Albany airport the morning I left for vacation. I had my Kindle loaded with plenty of books, but the little mass-market paperback copy was only $8 and I was really interested in the premise. So I started reading.

My first impression of the main character, Nora, is that she’s basically useless. She’s a true-crime writer, but it doesn’t seem like she ever leaves her tiny apartment. She doesn’t seem to have any friends or people she spends time with. That’s just not healthy. She’s also ridiculously indecisive; far too many pages are devoted to Nora hemming and hawing about whether or not she’ll go to the ill-fated hen (bachelorette for us Americans) weekend. Personally, I’d find it super weird if someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to in a decade invited me to her bachelorette party. The people in the book are a decade or so younger than I am so we’re talking about high school friends, and to me, that’s even stranger. I’d have no qualms about saying no to that, but for some reason, Nora can’t decide either way and only goes because one of her acquaintances, also from high school, is going.

The whole time that she’s attempting to make a decision she’s alluding to some horrible, life-changing event and subsequent falling out that she had with Clare, the woman getting married. Nora keeps talking about it, giving almost no new details, for most of the book, and it’s extremely annoying. Girl, you were in high school. What could you have possibly done that warranted running from your life and never speaking to your best friend again? Did you kill her dog? Screw her dad? I mean, come on. There are only so many dumb things that can be done in high school that don’t result in death or jail, and since you’re still alive and whining endlessly about going to this party, whatever it was couldn’t have been that bad.

So she goes to the party and we meet some other characters, none of whom have any redeeming qualities whatsoever. There’s Flo, the weekend hostess and current best friend of the bride; she has an unhealthy obsession with Clare, to the point where she even mimics the chick’s outfits. We have Tom, the token gay dude and playwright who’s married to a theater director and spends all of his time being catty and doing drugs. Nina, the main character’s acquaintance, is a surgeon and lesbian who isn’t about all of the heteronormative crap that goes along with typical weddings, so it makes even less sense for her to be there than I originally thought. And there’s Melissa… or Melanie? I honestly don’t remember her name because she’s only in about half the book. She leaves early because she has a six-month-old baby and just can’t stand to be away from him. Oh, and the bride of course, who’s one of those perfect, terrible girls we all knew in school and couldn’t stand.

So there’s drinking and drugs and activities, and the more time these terrible people spend together the more terrible they get, and the more the reader finds out that perfect Clare is actually a wretched human being who has zero fucks to give about her “friends”. Shock. Who didn’t see that coming? We also find out that Nora dated Clare’s fiance, James, for a few months when they were all in high school, and Nora ended up pregnant. James then broke up with her via text message, she had an abortion and this is the reason she fled her hometown and stopped speaking to basically everyone she knew. In the ensuing years, Nora never got over James, her HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND.

… what?

Ok, I know teenagers are melodramatic and whatever, but this is ridiculous. This isn’t a YA novel. The author really wants adults to believe this garbage and go along with it, like “Oh yeah, it’s totally normal for a woman in her mid-20s to still be obsessing about her high school sweetheart. They’re totally soul mates and it’s perfectly appropriate.”

So that’s weird, and some other shit happens, and someone gets shot. It’s immediately obvious what’s going on and who the killer is and her motivations, but it takes so freaking long for the author/narrator to just get to the point. Seriously, this could have been a novella in the hands of a more skilled writer. Dragging the “twist” out for so long gives the reader time to put the puzzle together, and by the time we get to the big reveal, it’s kind of passe. Also, the antagonist has so much time to monologue, and maybe it’s just my pet peeve, but I really hate that. I feel like it’s lazy writing to have the “villain” describe in detail why they’ve done things and how they outsmarted everyone. Isn’t that something that we should realize just reading the book?

And the way this book ends is equally ridiculous; Nora meets the dude who would have been James’ best man, and suddenly they’re into each other and even after the huge traumatic ordeal she went through, she decides to give love another chance? VOMIT. Homegirl has so much baggage she needs a full-time bellboy, not a date.

Public service announcement: Having a man won’t solve your problems. Get some therapy, work on yourself because you’re a hot mess, and maybe then go out with the guy. Anything else is just asking for tears and drama and no one likes that.

Ugh, I hate this book so much. And it’s about to be a movie. I don’t even understand.

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