4.5 mindfucked Stars
You’re reading a book and you know something has started to go hinky. You can feel the characters starting to go sideways and the plot starting to shift and you just know in your bones that all is not what it seems. But you keep going because how bad could it really get? I mean it is just a book after all. It’s full of fake characters and a fake story that doesn’t actually matter in the “real” world. Except you finish it and then your head explodes.
Alexandre Dane is a therapist specializing in sexual trauma. He’s also a sociopath. And carries around a tremendous amount of his own baggage. In some respects, it’s actually a really good thing that he’s a sociopath as his lack of emotional attachment to events and people keep him functioning in a way that a better-adjusted human being would not be. But you can still feel him starting to spiral as the story moves along. And you don’t know whether you should feel sorry for him or worry for the people that are bound to get blown to pieces when he does finally go all the way over the edge.
There is a whole cast of other characters in this book that Alexandre burns through in one way or another. He either fucks them, fucks with them, tolerates them or dismisses them entirely. His need for other people is situational at best in that he needs them around only to fulfill needs he can’t otherwise meet himself. The array of other people littering this story are interesting in their own right and the way he interacts with each of them is equally intriguing. There are moments when we see beyond Alexandre’s lack of attachment to his own self-reflection as it’s brought on by a relationship with one of these other people and it’s extraordinary to get that peek behind the curtain of his muddled mind.
Jaden Wilkes has written a book that is three parts brilliant and one part appalling. Brilliant in how it’s told. Brilliant in the patience she displays as she walks us through Alexandre’s undoing. Brilliant in the way that she has him interact with all of the other characters and what they each bring out of him. Brilliant that she got me to emotionally invest in this cruel and completely detached man. Appalling for all of the same reasons. Some of the things Alexandre does to other people and himself are truly horrific to read.
To say that this book is only a mindfuck lets the reader off the hook. Sure, you could read this book, chalk it up for crazy town and move on. But it could be so much more than that if you allow it. The puppet strings are pulled so masterfully you don’t even see them until the lights come up at the end of the production. But the real trick is thinking that the characters are the ones attached to the end of those strings when in reality, it’s us. The readers. Being jerked willy nilly at Wilkes’ whim and whimsy. It’s a ride to be sure and one for which I would gladly sign up as many times as I’m allowed.