BOOK REVIEW: Mercy Point by Anna Snoekstra

Mercy Point, Anna Snoekstra, HarperCollins Australia, 2018

From the publisher: In real life, they are enemies. Emma the know-it-all, Michael the bully, Fabian the coward, Tessie the weirdo and Sam the mystery. Online they are best friends, with one big thing in common: they are all sure they are adopted.

When they finally meet, they are horrified to find that the people they have been sharing their souls with are the people they hate. They decide to never speak again.

But avoiding each other is difficult in a small mountain town with only one high school.

It’s also tough to ignore one another when they each begin to realise that what their parents are hiding is much more sinister than just adoption.

The five teenagers have a choice to make. Continue to live a lie, or come together to hunt down the truth, no matter how dangerous that may be. Because the real story of their parentage is much more terrifying than they ever could have imagined.

It is a secret that goes to the very heart of the town itself.

I never used to read mysteries.

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. I had a bad experience with an Agatha Christie book when I was in primary school and I never fully recovered. I avoided all mysteries and thrillers, full stop, until JK Rowling had to go and write a series of them.

Of course, there was no way I could not read those books, so – with some trepidation – I did …

And they were great!

Terrifying, but great.

I asked for recommendations for more books just like these (but maybe a bit less terrifying), and a person who knows me too well suggested I try reading some YA mysteries.

With still a tiny bit of trepidation, I took their advice …

Long story short: I read one YA mystery book and I fell down a rabbit hole and all I could read were YA mysteries, back to back, and it seemed I would never climb back out again.

This book happened while I was down the rabbit hole.

But it was very different from all the others.

To reveal too much about why it was different would involve far too many spoilers but I think I’m safe to say, this is a genre-bender.

Yes, it is mystery, but it also goes into territory that Cormoran Strike (of the JK/Robert Galbraith novels), would never dream of, even with a whiskey or two under his belt.

I’ll tell you what I can, without ruining the (truly delicious), surprises.

This is another book with multiple narrators – my absolute favourite. And they are diverse, too, in ways that defy stereotypes. In Mercy Point, some of the narrators are definitely more engaging than others. I adored Emma and Fabian, but Michael definitely left me cold (until the very end of the book). On the whole, however, the characters in this book is fabulous, with each teenager given a rich, interesting backstory, and their own issues to deal with, outside of the unfolding mystery.

Sam, of course, is the exception. He is described as “the mystery” and is the only one of the main characters who doesn’t get his own chapters. It’s probably because of this (and the fact that his use of teen slang was at least ten years out of date), that made me immediately suspicious of him. I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to say that there is definitely more to his character than meets the eye …

Indeed, there is a lot more to history of this small town, the people living in it and, indeed, this book, than you might first suspect. It’s a twisty, unsettling tale, full of disconcerting surprises. Snoekstra is the master of the slow reveal, peeling back layer after layer, until we get into the deep, dark underground of the town and its secrets. It is so well-written, and atmospheric and had me utterly enthralled from beginning to end. And while I began to suspect the “big secret” as the ending approached, this almost feels like a testament to Snoekstra’s careful plotting rather than a criticism.

Mercy Point is not the book you might expect it to be. It was the book that finally pulled me out of my exclusively “YA mystery” rabbit hole, and threw me down another hole (or cave?), of an entirely different genre …

But to reveal which genre that is would be a spoiler. And the delight of Mercy Point is in its secrets. I’m not going to steal those from you!

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