Publishing Info: August 9, 2018 by St. Martin's Press
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: August 10, 2022
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.
She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.
This was a weird book, but not weird in a good way. I mean… it could have been, but it took some weird turns where it shouldn’t have and in other places it just didn’t go far enough down the path (to continue with this road metaphor) to develop some plot point well enough. There were portions of it that were creepy good but it suffered in many, many ways. And there will definitely be spoilers the rest of the way!
My first issue with the book is a big one, and that’s Hanna’s POV. I was just so confused by it. Stage chose to go back and forth between Suzette’s POV (the mother) and Hanna’s POV (the child). Hanna was supposed to be seven (give or take? I think seven.) but her narration was trying to sound young and yet it sounded way too adult in too many ways. I cannot imagine 7yos with a thought process or vocabulary like she did and it was very inconsistent between having the logic and reasoning to carry out elaborate revenge tasks and being too young to understand a lot of other things. Then there was the was whole witch possession thing. Was she actually possessed or not…? From Hanna’s POV she made it seem like she summoned the witch that talked to her and helped her do things, and then all of a sudden she was gone. Hanna “made the choice” to get rid of her because she was getting in the way but then she was trying to cast a spell and do magic and that got sent back into the background for a while until she and her “mommy” were competing witches. It was so inconsistent with the witch concept. Is it a thing or is it not? Is she trying to be a witch or is she using it as a metaphor or device to describe what she’s trying to do? It was just messy.
I also had an issue with the POV for a totally different reason. This could have been so much more creepy and suspenseful if we didn’t have Hanna’s insight at all. Suzette already didn’t know what was going on with Hanna and I think the gaslighting and manipulation would have had a much bigger affect if we didn’t know anything about Hanna at all. Skip the internal monologue and let Suzette be the unreliable narrator. That seed was <I>kind of</I>planted by sharing some of the ways she had snapped in the past, her terrible relationship with her mother and how I had assumed that caught up with her as an adult… but that never really went anywhere either. It gave the readers the thought that she may be making things up, maybe Hanna isn’t really responsible and Suzette is setting her up… but with Hanna’s POV, there’s not really much mystery and it just gets muddy with a little too much information and too many concepts taking place all at once.
The next issue I had was with Suzette. Touching on it in the POV issues, but I also just didn’t like her. I assumed part of that was to cast doubt and suspicion, but also, she just really wasn’t a good person, and not even in an interesting “can’t stop reading this thriller” kind of way. I kept hoping something more would happen there and we’d get a good twist, but Suzette is just unlikeable and her selfishness is revealed to be a little gross. I felt for her at first (although I never liked her even from the start), having so much trouble with her child, and things took kind of an odd turn. I can understand wanting relief while also feeling bad about it, but I just never knew how to feel about her.
She was also just plain stupid. If this book was really supposed to take place when it was written (2018), and I can only assume so since there were no references to other time periods and she had a phone with a camera on it and a laptop, then why in the hell didn’t she just set up cameras around her house to capture Hanna’s behavior? Her husband was also the worst and refused to believe her, so she refused to tell him, in a stupid, terrible cycle. Why didn’t she just SHOW him? It would have been so easy.
Basically, everybody in this book sucked. I was expecting a much more explosive ending since there’s still so much buzz about this book but it actually took a slightly logical turn and then… meh. It’s left slightly open to let you think about this family’s future but I think the action should have taken place NOW and let one big thing happen. It was a lot of lead up, there were some moments of fear and action, but it just wasn’t enough to warrant the hype. There was also just some really freaking weird and repulsive choices and that make me probably never want to pick up this author ever again. I almost gave it one star instead of 1.5 after that but I guess it was enough to make me want to finish the book and not just fast forward to be done so I guess that’s all we have.