Book Review: Sharp Objects
By: Gillian Flynn
Goodreads Score: 3.87
My Score: 4.2
Highlights: Compelling, twisted, gritty
WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Gillian Flynn. What can I say? Reading her books makes me uncomfortable, anxious, and disturbed. And yet: I read them. It’s nearly impossible not to. I started with Gone Girl, which was more mild than both Sharp Objects and Dark Places, in terms of sex and violence. Gone Girl was also my favorite of the three. Dark Places was my least, although I really appreciated the ending. Sharp Objects falls somewhere in-between the two.
As always, the main character is a bit screwed up (okay, a bit is an understatement). After her sister, Marian, died, Camille started carving words into her flesh, and having copious amounts of sex. Her relationship with her cold, infuriating mother is, as you can imagine, strained, with Camille still secretly pining for her mother’s love even though she knows that she’ll never truly have it. The result of all these things have caused her to bitterly resent her home town, and residing in her mind is a great way to gain that cynical mindset you’ve always been looking for, and which I happened to enjoy. Camille is vulnerable and tough at the same time. She is childish, and dangerous, and always teetering on the edge. She’s tenacious and protective. She is a girl falling even as she puts up her arms to block the pain.
As for the other characters…nearly all the important ones are impossible to like. And it’s supposed to be that way. On Gillian Flynn’s website, she writes that “there are no good women in Sharp Objects.”* One could argue that Camille isn’t necessarily bad, but then, she’s no paradigm of perfection, either. The other characters, however, are all just nasty.
Her mother, Adora, is not someone that anyone would Adore-a (get it?!).
Her half-sister, Amma, is infuriating at parts, strangely vulnerable in other parts, and manipulative and creepy through it all.
Her stepfather, Alan, is a mindless drone.
And all the other little townspeople are petty, gossip-eager, whiny, dramatic little caricatures of themselves. If any of the aspects of this book annoyed me, it was the monochromatic townspeople. Nearly all of Camille’s friends, and all of Camille’s mother’s friends, read the same. I had trouble differentiating who was who, and how (if at all) they were different from the next person. And sure, yes, I get that this was probably to highlight the horrible sameness of the town, and yes, it was through the biased filter of Camille’s eyes, but after a while, it was just repetitive.
But let’s get off the subject of characters, and move onto the plot itself. Like all of Flynn’s novels, Sharp Objects keeps you engaged in multiple ways. While the underlying question is always ‘who is killing these little girls?’, uncovering the messed-up relationship of Camille and her mother can be an even more absorbing plot point. Not to mention, finding out more about Camille’s dark past. I think the latter was what gripped me the most–what, exactly, made Camille turn her body into a human message board? And what does her past have to do with the present? I had to take all my snacks with me onto my bed, because I knew that I wasn’t going to leave my room until I finished the book, and I needed sustenance to keep me going. That’s how much I wanted answers to the above questions.
Fascinating and gripping, Sharp Objects is a book that is dark and unflinching. It is, at times, uncomfortable. It is bold and invasive.
It is a really, really good book.
Have you read any of Gillian Flynn’s books? What do you think of them? Read any other good/bad books lately? Tell me about them in the comments below!
*To see the fascinating article from which this was taken in, go to: http://gillian-flynn.com/for-readers/