SMALL SPACES - by Sarah Epstein

SMALL SPACES - Sarah Epstein
Published: April 2018 - Walker Books.
Genres: Young adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 378.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Occasional violence. Child abuse. Mental illness.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

YA thrillers are finally becoming more of a thing, but I'm still desperate for more of them. And if you're also a fan, then this little book HAS to be on your TBR.

The writing is simple, decent for a debut, and very easy to read. That's one of the reasons this book works so well - it's fast-paced, easy to flip through, and it's the kind of book you can read in a day (I did). The only big issue I have with the writing is the dialogue; it's too info-dumpy at times, and very bland and devoid of character personality.

The plot is WOW. Heck is it clever. The mystery is so intricate, the clues and red herrings so meticulously strewn throughout the story, and the suspense and excitement are a constant build to a terrifying finale. It's so brilliantly crafted - it messes with your mind, makes you afraid to be alone, and it keeps you guessing. From the outside, it may look like a harmless little thriller, but when you start reading you'll realise just how psychologically manipulative the book really is.

We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

Fear. Aching loneliness. The worry of being misunderstood. I realise now it's what we all have in common, regardless of our circumstances. We all share the fundamental need to be heard, to know we matter. It's what tethers us to one another and reminds us we are never truly alone. 

The characters are clearly defined individuals who narrowly avoid becoming stereotypes. They're not amazingly drawn, but you know who's who and you can enjoy the beautiful relationships and friendships between some of them without falling in love with them. There's enough to make you like the characters, but I wouldn't say any of them are particularly memorable or vivid. They're simply there, and they work for the short, twisty tale they're in. Personally, the main teenage characters (Tash, Sadie, Mallory, and Morgan) all felt like young kids in need of a hug. I found them lovable. Tash, especially, suffers so much, and I felt so sorry for her.

Small Spaces is an intelligently plotted and suspenseful psychological thriller. The writing and characters aren't especially brilliant, but they work for the story. If you're a fan of YA thrillers and want to have your head messed with in all the best ways, don't miss this book.

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