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{January 4, 2013}   {ARC Review} The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

15793659From Goodreads: A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.

Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh’s Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father. Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

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This novel had a very intriguing premise, but unfortunately, I didn’t find the execution of the story itself to be all that interesting.  The story revolves around Hesketh, a middle age man who interviews companies to discover who sabotaged them, and why. Right away we find out that his Asperger’s has gotten in the way of his relationships; he seems to enjoy being alone, though he loves his stepson, Freddy, dearly, and he highly enjoys figuring out patterns within society.  Hesketh is also obsessed with origami. Not to be a jerk, but I find him to be a boring main character.  I don’t mind quirks in my characters, in fact, I love them, but I don’t particularly enjoy listening to Hesketh describe how to fold specific origami patterns in order to create different animals and flowers.  I know it’s his coping mechanism, but it really bored me to tears.  Every time I saw the word “origami,” I inwardly groaned.  That, along with the strange pacing of the novel, made it difficult for me to get through.

I was intrigued by the sabotage and the suicides.  I was intrigued with the downfall of childhood innocence, the mass hysteria, and the murders, but so much of this novel centers on Hesketh trying to make sense of his life, and I just don’t care about him, his sex life, his ex’s lesbianism, or his origami.  Harsh, I know.  But I really think the novel was trying to take on too much, to discuss too much and cover all the bases that we are now seeing in modern literature (loneliness, coping with love and loss, sexuality and homosexuality, etc).  Thus, the novel seems to lose sight of the main issue facing Hesketh’s society: the children and their murdering tendencies.

Once I was able to hurdle the middle of the novel, I did find that things got much more interesting.  The pacing began to quicken, and the truth about the destruction of children began to take the forefront.  This was interesting, and I enjoyed the focus on Freddy and the children as Hesketh and his team attempted to figure out what, exactly, was going on.  The underlying factor of spirits and the taking over of bodies was extremely discerning, and I really enjoyed the last quarter of the novel, since it wasn’t so much about Hesketh, but rather about society as a whole.  Had the entire novel been like the last quarter, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  Two stars.

2 stars

Bloomsbury Publishing has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on January 8, 2013.

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