Wednesday, August 4, 2021

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

 

This book is so emotionally intense. You know a book is good when you find yourself thinking about the characters all day, with that sinking feeling of dread in your gut at the thought of anything bad happening to them. I'm honestly so impressed at how deftly the author handled such a controversial and weighty subject, because abuse can be such a hard topic to get right. This story is about Sam, a missing teen who was abducted by a child predator and held captive for three years. The story is narrated by Josh, Sam's childhood friend who was the last to see him on the day he went missing, and Beth, Sam's older sister. Both of them have to adjust when Sam abruptly turns up again, three years later.

I actually like the decision not to have Sam be the narrator because I think it would have been way too dark. The little teases we get of what Sam's life was like with Rusty really turned my stomach and actually made me feel really anxious, so I'm glad we were one-step removed from that narrative. Especially since I actually really liked Josh and Beth, who both have problems of their own. Both of them are struggling with survivor's guilt-- especially Josh-- and Josh is attempting to come to terms with his sexuality while Beth is trying to find her identity as something separate from her brother's. Both of them experience so much anxiety and trauma and become fixated on what happened to Sam, and their own involvement in it, which I thought was tragic and real.

The story is quite sad and potentially triggering, obviously. I thought it was handled really well and liked that the author didn't go into details about the abuse, because it still hit... really, really hard. I think my heart broke about a hundred times for all three characters. I liked how they were allowed to be flawed, all in their own way, and that everything was so complex and nuanced. There was just one scene I really didn't like-- a scene where Sam does something sexual with Josh. It felt like a good opportunity to delve into consent and cyclical abuse, but nothing ever really came of it. I was kind of disappointed about that, especially since the blurb makes it sound like there's going to be a romance between Sam and Josh (there isn't). I really didn't like that scene and there were a couple scenes after that I also didn't like that ultimately made me deduct a star, because I felt like they took away from the message of the book.

Overall, though, WE NOW RETURN TO REGULAR LIFE is a really dark, emotionally involved read that will appeal to anyone who likes more mature YA books that dive into tough subjects. I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books by this author, especially if they are as dark as this.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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