I usually go out of my way to make my book reviews fair and balanced, acknowledging their strengths even when I didn’t personally love them—but you know what? I really, really hated Watching Edie.
There’s no way to talk about what I found so distasteful without giving away the ending, but I seriously do not recommend you read this book unprepared. (To be honest, I do not recommend you read this book anyway.) So, look away now if you don’t want to know how this book ends.
The big “plot twist” in Watching Edie is a horrific gang rape. That’s what the whole novel leads up to, and supposedly, it explains why one character is now so mentally unhinged.
The rape scene itself is horribly gratuitous. The author, Camilla Way, seems to have used it purely to upset the reader, filling it with terribly distressing details that made me literally wince. That’s not to say such scenes can’t have value. The rape scene in Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, for example, is every bit as harrowing as this one—but the awfulness at least drives home important messages about consent and victim-blaming. In Watching Edie, the rape serves no such purpose. It gives the novel a cheap and artless shock factor, but rape is not a plot twist.
Camilla Way also tries to mislead the reader as to which characters are trustworthy—but to no great effect. One character is painted so pointedly as a victim that I knew almost from the first page she must be a villain. The fact that the past and present timelines were told through two different characters’ eyes only added to this: the narrative structure was practically screaming “There are two sides to this story.”
The only reason I’m giving this novel one star instead of zero is that the writing itself isn’t terrible. Camilla Way does a decent job of building suspense, and a few moments were genuinely scary. Sadly, the content itself is lazy and insensitive. My advice: give this one a miss.
HarperCollins (28 Jul 2016); NAL (2 August 2016)
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.