Published August 19, 2014
306 pages (hardcover)
I have a friend who told me a few years ago that I had to watch Revenge. This friend is the only person I know who DVRs soap operas and watches them religiously, so I should have known what I was getting into.
Revenge is, in a word, terrible (I know because I really gave it a shot. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I watched all twenty-six episodes of the first season and one episode of the second season before finally throwing in the towel).
The main character is this chick named Emily who goes to the Hamptons to exact (you guessed it!) revenge on a family of rich assholes who ruined her father’s life and had him sent to prison when Emily was just a little girl. Emily will stop at nothing to get back at these jerks . . . and she has trained her little heart out with martial-arts masters in Japan (obviously), so she can get revenge like a true badass:
Imagine a book that is similar in concept but even worse (and more far-fetched) in execution, and you have One Kick.
Kit Lannigan was kidnapped by pedophiles when she was just six. At the beginning of her captivity, they kept her locked in a closet-like box. Soon, she developed Stockholm Syndrome and forgot her old life and her old name (her captors called her Beth). By the end of her captivity, she was calling her captors Mom and Dad, going out in public with them, and playing Scrabble in the evenings.
The book begins five years after Kit’s disappearance, when she is rescued by the FBI. Following the drill that her “dad” made her go through regularly, Kit/Beth types “autonuke” into the basement computer before the FBI can get to it, thereby destroying all of the files contained thereon.
Jump ahead ten years. Kit/Beth now goes by Kick (“She hadn’t been able to get used to her old name after she came home. It made her feel like an imposter.”). She now understands what she did when she typed that one word into her captor’s computer ten years ago. As penance, she obsessively follows Amber Alerts and missing-children reports and police scanner apps, hoping she can save just one child who is going through what she went through. She has trained herself (Emily-from-Revenge style) to be able to protect herself from future harms.
Then, one day, out of nowhere, a “former weapons dealer” named Bishop finds Kick. He is weird and mysterious (and extremely wealthy), but he and Kick have a common goal: to find missing kids. When he tells Kick that he thinks he may have a lead on a kid who has recently gone missing, Kick agrees to help him.
This book is downright terrible. Sure, it’s occasionally suspenseful (usually in a cheesy and utterly cliché kind of way), and it is a ridiculously fast read. But that doesn’t begin to make up for its flaws. Specifically: it’s horribly written, poorly edited, and utterly unbelievable. Not to mention, there are some pretty yucky details that are included, it seems, solely for shock value. For example, when the FBI raids the pedophiles’ home, they follow Kit/Beth into the basement where she lives (and where she is “autonuking” all of her captors’ files and contacts) and find this: “Their basement movie studio lit up. Four sets: a princess bedroom, a classroom, a doctor’s office, and a scary dungeon.”
In addition, the fact that Kick is all trained up is hammered home approximately seven million times, in the most ridiculous ways imaginable. For example: “She got a pack of throwing stars out of her backpack and stowed them in her sweatshirt pocket. She could relax better if she had weapons immediately handy.” Or: “She opened the glove box and dug through half a dozen survival knives and a box’s worth of loose bullets until she found a pair of sunglasses.” It’s laughable. And terrible. And just plain silly.
There is very little character development, and the plot is sloppy and jumpy. There are some things (like Kick’s obsession with throwing stars) that are mentioned far too many times, while other things are completely glossed over. You find yourself asking, “Wait, why are they doing that?” and “Wait, what happened with that?” far too many times. And there are countless eye-rolling moments (like multiple incidences of private helicopters inconspicuously landing on random residential buildings).
Be forewarned: the prologue is kind of exciting (it’s how I got sucked in). But please don’t be fooled. I assure you, it goes steadily downhill from there. This book is the first in a series. The only thing worse than having to read this book would be having to read more than one of these books. Don’t get sucked in!!!
- #1 LibraryReads List selection for August 2014
- Booklist starred review
- Kirkus starred review
- Publisher’s Weekly starred review
Who should read it: Don’t bother. Binge-watching Revenge would be better than reading this.
Want to read along with me? Reviews of these books are coming soon:
- Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award for fiction; an Indie Next List pick for October 2014)
- The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (a LibraryReads List selection for August 2014; an Indie Next List pick for September 2014)
- All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (an Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2014 and New York Times best seller)