Today, I’m going kick off my Return to Blogging by talking about something I like.
Because that’s what I do sometimes on Mondays, so clearly it’s like I’m right on schedule and not like I left for a whole entire month, and also this is something I really, really want to share with you, because I like Gillian Flynn a lot. A LOT.
Before we begin, I want to be conscientious and point out that her books should probably come with a content warning.* However, I don’t know what it would say, because it’s not one of those TV-MA, easily-quantifiable kinds of Content, although there’s some of that too. No, it’s this other thing. This ominous, hard to define thing where after you’re done reading, you might not feel all that good about the world, and you have to understand that’s just the chance you take when you open the book. It’s what you’re getting into.
Comparatively speaking, I don’t actually read much adult fiction. I used to—back when I was seventeen—but these days, my reading list leans pretty heavily toward YA. And yes, that does seem weirdly backward, but there you go.
So, I don’t read a lot of adult fiction.
But I read Gillian Flynn.
I also don’t read a lot crime fiction, but I read Gillian Flynn.
And I don’t read many literary thrillers or scrappy-girl-gets-to-the-bottom-of-things books, or books without magic, but I read—you get the idea.
As an avid horror fan and student of the psychological and the macabre, these are some of my favorite books.
And as usual, whenever I try to talk about plot, I immediately have to delete everything again because it turns out being horrifically spoilery.
So I’ll stay away from trying to explain what these books are about, and stick to personal reactions. Also, this will give me good practice at articulating my personal reactions. (For actual plot summaries, you can click on the covers to go to the appropriate Indiebound page.)
Of the three titles, I have to say that Dark Places is probably the one I’m least likely to go around recommending to people. Which is not to say that I’m not crazy about it, or that I won’t read it again a billion times. In all fairness, none of these books is really for the faint of heart, but of the three, Dark Places strikes me as by far the grossest, most uncomfortable one. And I don’t mean gross in the messy, visceral, bodily-fluids way, although there’s some of that. I mean gross in an emotional way. Like, the people in this book are so upsetting that it makes you want to shower, and you don’t even know exactly what it is you’re trying to wash off. Brutal, brutal, brutal, smart, brutal.
Gone Girl, well, it’s pretty much exquisite. It’s absolutely the most comprehensive, intimate, accurate portrait of a sociopath that I’ve ever, ever come across—deft and nuanced and dark as hell. So, you know. If you like that kind of thing. Which I do.
And oh, Sharp Objects, I think I love you best of all! This is the first book I read by Flynn, and the first one she wrote. This is the first book that made me suspect I might actually like crime fiction. I finished Sharp Objects in one wide-eyed, manic sitting and then as soon as I was done, I had to turn back to the first page and start again.
This is a murder story that feels like a fairy tale. It’s a world of impossible characters that still seem entirely plausible, simply because you can’t help believing in them. I’m trying so, so hard right now not to just start telling you about all the stuff that happens … okay fine. The main character’s entire body is covered in word-shaped-scars that she’s carved there herself, and she is by far the most well-adjusted person in the book! Also, everyone is an archetype that totally looks like a real person, and there is an anguished, dishonored prince and a shocking, scary fairy princess and an overbearing cannibalistic witch-mother, and everything having to do with sex is this weird, subverted form of emotional blackmail and and and!
Now, to end with a responsible note from a responsible adult: these books are not really intended for minors.
And then a more personal note from the person who is talking to you right now: at age fifteen, I would have devoured them like candy.
(Morbid, morbid candy.)
*Also, now after reading back through this, it occurs to me I should be very clear and say that I’m specifically talking about a content warning from me, the writer of this blog post—like when I tell you that if you scroll down farther, there are yucky movie stills from Pet Sematary and if that doesn’t sound like fun to you, you should stop now—and not that I think publishers should start putting content warnings on everything. Because no, I don’t think that.