Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean

The novel I’d be writing on this month would be Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean. It is her debut novel. A novel dedicated to her mother. Which had made me a lot more… uncomfortable, guilty (?) than I had expected, to be honest.

Alright, when I picked this book up from the new arrivals shelf, I hadn’t checked to see which section it belonged to, and now I kind of regret it. I’d never repeat that mistake again, I swear. See, I’ve looked at the summary [on the back page], and then at the blurbs, and I thought, ‘Hey, a thriller story about a stalker stalking a stalker, wonder who’s really stalking who and how’s the stalking going around? It’d be an interesting read, at least, let’s do this book for this month!’

Okay, I haven’t actually paid too much attention to the details given. I scanned through, got the gist of it, and borrowed it. It really did look like a sort of crime novel that I would like, so I brought it home, and, even after my brother, having picked the book up before I did, told me that this book was really not something I should be touching, I hadn’t really listened to him.

And then I got around to actually reading the novel.

It’s not even that the book was badly written. Honestly, I don’t only kind of like the author’s writing style, I’m impressed with how candidly she’s written this book and how she’s managed to make this book succeed in evoking the response it was probably supposed to get from the readers.

It’s just that when I read a book, I read it for three things: writing style, plot [story-line] and characters. She passed the first two with flying colours, the plot was actually pretty good, if you could sit down and actually suffer through the book – what dragged this book down on my list was the characters.

The story itself – well, there’s a sex scene pretty much every two chapters or so (it’s only slightly, very slightly, exaggerated), and the way things had developed was just plain…disturbing. I’d let you develop the story with your imaginations from that.

I don’t mind that, really. In fact, I kind of like certain stories that has darker themes, and I accept (like) quite a wide range of stories. [I’d skip a really long rant I’ve previously typed out here about fanfictions, but yeah, it exposes you to a lot of weird stuff – if you think sodomy’s bad, try reading mPreg, ABO and the likes. But that’s not entirely the point, the point here is that I’m actually exceptionally openminded to these sort of things, so the fact that this story would make me feel uncomfortable reading it is a pretty good indication. It is, actually, a lot less twisted than quite a large portion of the stuff I read on a pretty regular basis.]

So, truthfully, it was the characters that ruined this story for me.

As Maryellen so kindly put it,

Alice Croft is one of the most complex characters that I have ever read. She got under my skin. You want to pity her; but she makes it hard. You want to hate her; but then you feel that twinge of pity. You want to choke the life out of her; but then you remember that she’s a character in a book and why in the world are you so invested in this damaged character anyway?

And that pretty much goes for Jack, too.

I kind of regret not having looked for more honest opinions on the internet before reading the book.

In a sense, I’ve always been more partial to a book with good, likeable characters than a book with an exceptional plot and well developed plot – perhaps it is a more personal preference, but I’ve always found myself quite attached to the characters, and if they turn me off, that’s it for me. I’m not touching the book again.

Fanfiction again. It’s unavoidable, really, with me, so I’d try to keep this short: the thing about fanfiction is that they work around a set of characters you already know and love. The fanworks develop on these characters, adding more facets to them, and they just make you fall in love even more with them, and that’s why a cast of characters that, while not necessarily good, aren’t exactly completely unlikeable either, has always been more important to me than simply the plot.

With brilliant characters, even if the actually novel falls short of the standards, at least I can be reassured that somewhere out there, there is someone who did make at least one acceptable piece of fanwork for this book, these characters, and sooner or later, the characters would build on themselves and I’d stop here.

I’d go on forever if I could.

But okay, that’s really where this story failed to draw me in. I’m quite fair to the characters, I give every character a pretty even chance, even those walking cliches. The cliches did become cliches for a reason, you know.

And most of the time, after going through the whole story, holding onto a tiny silver of hope, I’d always find at least one character that has something that I’d like enough to give a possible sequel, or other works by the same author, or even the book itself, another try.

This story failed in even that.

I have tried Fifty Shades of Grey, scanning through the first three, four chapters, a chapter somewhere in the centre, then straight to the end to see what happened, and honestly, I can’t say much about the characters or the sex.

I honestly don’t understand the hype for that sort of stories.

And I’m sorry, even though I feel that comparing this story that Fifty Shades is an insult to the story and the author, the only way in which this story had exceeded the Fifty Shades series (trilogy?) was that the plot was great and the writing was awesome. Other than that? Not very different. [If you discount how this story is able to at least work the sex scenes very graphically and quite naturally (compared to other published novels), and not in the awkward way stories like ‘Brazen’ by Kelley Armstrong has handled it (Now that’s another story I truly find the quality to be lacking in, which just makes me feel sad for the future of the novel and storywriting industry if stories like these are considered ‘bestsellers’ and ‘recommended reads’) ]

Perhaps if this story had been a fanfiction, where the characters are ones I’ve always loved and known, I’d have found it a little more enjoyable, able to go along with the plot intricacies. Instead, I’ve been trying my best to love the characters and failing to even stop disliking them, throughout the story, so, this month’s book sadly fell short.

I’d stop here, I suppose, before I start going on about how the published works nowadays are actually falling short of the standards that the fan works are attaining and setting, and how it is a pity that people don’t seem to appreciate the fanworks, instead burying themselves in these pitiful excuses of ‘recommended reads’.

But if you’re truly a psychological erotica thriller fan, a fan of generally all around unlikeable characters who have frankly violent sex all the time, then go ahead and read this novel. You’d enjoy it. The writing, as I’ve said earlier, is really good, so you won’t be having problem with weird grammar and slang all over the place.

With this month’s novel, done, anyone with recommendations for what to read for next month?

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