“Agent Starling, you think you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?”
You may wonder why I’m quoting Hannibal Lecter to open a review of a book which is narrated by a 14 year old girl grieving the death of the gay uncle she was in love with, but I’ll get to that. Set in 1987, June Elbus’s beloved gay artist uncle Finn is dying of AIDS and painting one last portrait of his nieces. In the aftermath of his death, June discovers a boyfriend of Finn’s she never knew existed. At Finn’s posthumous request, she reaches out to the boyfriend, thus uncovering a whole raft of family secrets.
I really wanted to love this book. But, to quote a friend on Goodreads, I found myself mostly just getting through it. The problems with it are fundamental. Firstly, nothing much happens in the book at all. Whole and seemingly endless chapters are spent on June’s sister appearing in a performance of South Pacific at their school, for example. Secondly, June and indeed all the characters in this book are on a sliding scale of stupid and annoying. Every time one of them does something, it made me want to roll my eyes.
Neither of those would be an issue if it weren’t for the third problem of the book. Here is where the Lecter quote comes in because my GOD. The writing is so straightforward, unimaginative, repetitive and dull that it sucks what little life there is right out of the pages. It could have been called Tell The Wolves I Went Places and Did Stuff. It also means I didn’t believe a single character, one thing they did or a single word any of them said. This could have been brilliant. Instead it’s below average and my two star rating is frankly a generous one.