Monday, 13 January 2020
Book Review: Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph
Are You Watching? is about Jess, whose mother was tragically murdered 10 years before the start of the book, leaving her family devastated and her dad a broken shell of himself. In a desperate attempt to find the killer, who's struck repeatedly since that awful day, Jess applies for a new YouTube series which will follow 5 teens around one day a week for a month, with the winner being featured for an extra 2 months. Can she use her newfound viral fame to draw out the monster who stole her mother?
I picked this up partly because of the intriguing premise and partly because it was only 99p on Kindle, but mainly because debut author Vincent Ralph is represented by Claire Wilson and I don't think you can go wrong with reading anything written by any of Claire's clients. This book totally justified my faith in her - it's an incredibly pacey and well-plotted debut which has me really excited to read future books from Vincent Ralph!
For me, the strongest part of the book was definitely that amazing pacing - Ralph writes in really short chapters, mostly just a few pages, which are perfectly suited for the thriller genre. He builds tension excellently and the book raises some interesting questions about the nature of social media, whether it can be used for good in the way Jess wants to, and how far Jess is responsible for unforeseen events which happen once she starts taunting The Magpie Man to try and get him to slip up. In addition, it builds to a heart-in-mouth climax, with a couple of especially superbly written scenes, which had me glued to the screen of my Kindle trying to work out what would happen, while the identity of the killer is an intriguing mystery with plenty of potential suspects.
Jess herself is an outstanding central character; I enjoyed the others but the majority of them have relatively little time on the page. That said, her father is an excellent study of grief and I thought their relationship, with her needing him to let her do the show but also being frustrated by how badly he'd fallen apart after the tragedy, was a very strong portrayal. The other relationships - between Jess and a mysterious neighbour boy who claims to be trying to protect her, and with her current best friends and the friends who drifted away after her mother's death - are also interesting ones. Director Danny, who appears on her day of the week to follow her around for the day, and is quickly torn between wanting the viewing figures they both need and fearing for her safety, is an intriguing character who veers well away from the stereotype of someone who'll do anything for ratings.
In addition to the quest for the killer, there's also a strong theme about moving on with your life and what comes next - Jess has felt her life overshadowed by her appalling loss, and the way her dad has struggled to cope with it for so long; even if she gets justice, will she be able to put it behind her? It's a sensitively-handled theme which is really well dealt with.
In conclusion, thriller fans definitely shouldn't miss this one, and it's announcing Vincent Ralph as a major talent who I'm sure we'll see more great books from in the future.
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