BONFIRE - by Krysten Ritter

BONFIRE - Krysten Ritter
Published: November 2017 - Hutchinson
Genres: Adult / mystery / contemporary / thriller
Pages: 288.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature content / themes of suicide / sexual innuendo / infrequent bad language / very strong bullying themes
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Should you ever go back? It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands. But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good. Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

I was literally convinced that I would fall in love with this book. I'd only heard good things about it, and it looked like the kind of thriller I adore.

I know now that there's a hole inside me. A hole that can't be patched or filled with files or paperwork or legal cases or new clothes or miles or happy hours or bartenders. This was never about the water. It's not even about Kaycee, not really. It's about me.

The writing is awkward. The sentences are stilted, and I personally think they could've used restructuring. It doesn't flow - it's hard to read. 
The dialogue is decent. It isn't witty or brilliant, but it works. I only wish that the conversations had been allowed to flow; too often they're halting and stop-start because of the action included amidst them. 

The story is startlingly original. I love that, and for the most part I also love the setting. But I do wish it'd been fleshed out more. The story also took a long time to get into, and the slowness continued way past page 50. I can't say it's a very thrilling or suspenseful novel, but you do keep reading if only to find out the answers to the hanging questions. Otherwise it definitely isn't a propulsive read. 
I also have big issues with the plot. It's a mess. It starts off complicated, with a lot of info I just couldn't absorb or understand (lots of legal stuff and terminology - that goes straight over my head) but towards the end and including the resolution, it's like Ritter realised just how complicated she'd made her plot and so just shimmied it down for the end of the book and tossed most of it out the window. It's a cop-out; it's unrealistic, makes no sense, and feels lazy. The characters at least have some closure, but the plot doesn't know what to do with itself. It's so bad.

When did other people's happiness start feeling like assault? But the answer comes quickly, and brings a bad taste to my mouth. Always. I didn't ever stop feeling excluded. I just started to wear it and pretend it was my choice. Maybe that's why I was drawn to the law of poisoned things, and hurt people, and scabby chemical earth. Maybe toxic is the only thing I really understand.

"I'm sorry," I say, without knowing exactly what I'm sorry for. For your daughter, for her job, for that sophomore behind the Dumpsters, men who get to do anything they want, and the people who are taken advantage of. Because isn't that, ultimately, what the case comes down to? There are people of the world who squeeze and the ones who suffocate.

The characters are disappointing. The entire secondary cast lack full-circle arcs and development, and their personalities are mere wisps in a storm - impossible to grasp. They aren't vivid or fully realised at all. 

But I like Abby. She's got a strong back story and is deliciously unreliable (I luuuuuv unreliable narrators!), and I adore how cleverly - and tragically - her memories of the past are sloshed together. Her story is incredibly heartbreaking, but I love her dark and damaged character.

Bonfire is a dark and gut wrenching thriller, but it has very little thrill, suspense, or excitement. The plot is messy, the characters weak, and not even a compelling heroine can redeem the book.

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