Book Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Posted June 18, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 2 Comments

Complicit

 Complicit

by Stephanie Kuehn

Expected Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know this one simple truth: she’s not the crazy one and never has been.

He is.

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Stephanie Kuehn is particularly good at writing emotionally tormented teen boys without them ever seeing stereotypical. I really enjoyed Kuehn’s debut, Charm and Strange, so I was eager to read Complicit. And while the two main characters of those books are different from one another, they both deal with a lot of things and are heavily emotionally tormented.

Complicit is a crazy ride of a book. The synopsis gives quite a bit a way, so when the main character, Jamie, starts not being able to remember things and has prolonged gaps in his memory, I kind of knew where it was headed. After all, the synopsis basically tells me something’s wrong with Jamie, even though he thinks something’s wrong with his sister. It was a bit difficult to try and get that from my mind so I could discover the story of Complicit for the first time.

Some seriously insane things happen in Complicit! The way Jamie related to his adopted family, his sisters, and his school mates was all really intriguing. I kept not knowing who to root for or what I was supposed to want to happen. Was I on Jamie’s side? Was I not? I didn’t know, because part of the appeal of Complicit is not knowing the full story right away. I love an unreliable narrator, and Jamie, with his memory gaps and only vague recollection of his childhood, is definitely an unreliable narrator. I wanted to trust him, but I knew I shouldn’t.

I thought Cate, Jamie’s sister, was the most interesting character, even more than Jamie. Cate’s taken the fall for some pretty serious stuff, and I find the conversations and encounters between Cate and Jamie fascinating. She loves her brother, but she worries about him in a profound way. She’s also the only one who knows the truth, and it’s driven her a bit insane. The psychology of both Cate and Jamie fascinates me.

Complicit was full of psychological thrills, and it mostly delivered. The last chapter left me with my jaw on the floor. It was the type of ending that I don’t know fully how to talk about but that left me thinking there was really no other way that Complicit should have ended–the best possible ending for the book. It’s a last chapter that will linger with me for a long while.

That being said, I did feel like Complicit was missing an element. The plot, characters, pacing–all technically perfect. And perhaps it’s a case of me comparing an author’s work too closely, which I try not to do, but I can’t help but to notice that Complicit lacks the same emotional complexity I thought Charm & Strange had(though it is perfectly complex in other ways). Did that really distract from my enjoyment of Complicit? Not really, but I did notice it enough to find it worth mentioning.

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Complicit was a novel full of complex psychology and an unreliable narrator I wanted to root for but always felt like something wasn’t quite right. While it lacked a certain element of really getting me to see and feel the character’s emotions, it made up for that in numerous other ways. Cate in particular is one of the most fascinating side characters I’ve read recently, and my brain is still reeling form the last chapter. 4/5 cupcakes. 

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4 Stars

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2 responses to “Book Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

  1. I just finished Complicit and I am in shock. Now I don’t know how to write my review. I also read We Were Liars this summer. In a lot of ways very similar stories.

  2. Oh good!! I thought this one looked interesting so I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! I LOVE complex psychology and unreliable narrators so I should really probably check this one out!

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