Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SHOCKTOBER You Know What You Have to Do by Bonnie Shimko YP FIC SHIMKO

Mary-Magdalene (Maggie to her friends) Feigenbaum seems like your average 15 year old.  Sure she has a weird name and her step-dad is the local mortician. Sure her mom dresses like a trashy teenager from the 80s (coincidentally when she had Maggie) and acts more like her sister, but relatively normal. Except for the voice.  The one that tells her she has to kill and how to get away with it.  The one that's already had her kill once and wants her to kill again. 

This is an engrossing thriller that will garb ahold of you and keep you reading as fast as you can to the very end.  It's a sick sort of thrill to be in the mind of a teenage serial killer.    Since we get the entire story from her perspective, we share in her fear of getting caught instead of rooting for it.  It's also really creepy that she spends so much time worrying about her relatively mundane boy problems and issues with her once-dorky friend joining the Cool Kids Table. The focus of this, distracts from the fact that we're being told the story from a cold blooded killer until the voice comes back and brings us back to sobering reality. Maggie's drive for murder is just one aspect of her life.  It's normality to her is genuinely unnerving and way more unsettling then if she was more conflicted outwardly. Maggie is also genuinely funny, with a dry sense of humor she shares with the reader and hides form the rest of the world.  This makes her both weirdly likable and made me feel complicit, like I was keeping her secrets. 

Unfortunately, the book has some notable flaws that keep it from being as good as it could have been.  Most the characters seem sort of thinly fleshed out, without much deep personality.  However, we are getting the viewpoint of a cold blooded murderer, so that could be partially why we don't get to know them very well.  Also, there's some occasional clunky dialogue and the book sometimes feels sanitized for your protection.  This is clearly a deliberate choice to make the book less graphic and bleak, but it will seem unrealistic to some readers.  however, it really worked for me.  Maggie is a bit shy and her best friend is woefully naive, so that fit their characters relatively well.  Also, keeping a lot of cursing and gory details made the book more medium dark than out and out bleak.  It reminded em of Lois Duncan, R L Stine, and Christopher Pike.  Always creepy and dark but usually not very explicit, but I think Shimko has the potential to out-write them all.  However, I think many readers will dislike the ending.  Without spoiling anything the book ends pretty abruptly and some people you expect to get the bloody justice they deserve don't.  Personally, I found the ending sort of ambiguous.  It definitely did end a bit too quickly and neatly for my tastes, but Maggie isn't the most reliable of narrators, so I'm not convinced as she is that her troubles are really over. Instead of feeling cheated by an anticlimax, I found it clever.  It made me realize that I was looking for more violence!  I was getting as bad as Maggie! I will admit that not getting more real answers about Maggie's condition was galling, but the faults are never enough to keep the book from being seriously gripping.  I highly recommend it to thriller fans. 

You can find You Know What You Have to Do in our catalog here.

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