My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published: June 15, 2017
This book is written in the genre of “friends with secrets and a skeleton” – my favorite!
It’s comparable to Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity, and It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell.
This is the story of Isabel, Kate, Fatima, and Thea who became fast friends while attending the boarding school Salten House. They are typical experimenting teens – smoking, drinking, and testing the rules. They form a strong bond through bad behavior. They do not allow others to join their exclusive group. They are fiercely protective of each other.
They play a lying game much to the chagrin of their schoolmates and the administration. As the novel moves through the five rules (representing sections of the book), the reader understands how the game is played through past and present events.
A tragic situation occurs and the four friends mobilize to cover it up. It means lying but they are very good at this. Very shortly after, they are called into the school office because of a perceived scandalous situation and they are expelled from Salten House. They leave the school and take their dark secrets with them.
The novel cuts back and forth between their time at Salten House and as present day adults. The friends have grown up but they all live in fear of the skeleton falling out of the closet. One day, Isabel, Fatima and Thea all receive a text message from Kate – ‘I need you.’ And they drop everything and rush to be by her side. Has someone discovered the secret that could destroy them?
I read reviews where people have criticized how Isa, Fatima, and Thea all put aside their family and jobs for Kate, and how people wouldn’t do this in real life. I disagree. Young adult friendships can be all consuming especially when participating in risky behavior and trying to cover up impulsive actions and mistakes. And this is something that bonds you to another person forever.
Other reviewers noted the frequent and detailed breastfeeding references. I agree with this, and understand that it bothered some people. It didn’t bother me, but it was not a necessary detail that supported the plot and Ware could have gone without this.
The book has been described as moody and atmospheric and this is very accurate. The setting played a huge factor in building this dark and haunting environment. Ware’s descriptions of the gray mist, Salten House, the Mill, the Reach and the coastal town help build the foreshadowing of doom.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the switching between the past and present, the guessing game, the dramas, confessions, and the twists and turns. I liked unraveling the plot and piecing together the story. The ending gives closure to the many questions that arose in the book.
Well done, Ruth Ware. Highly recommend.