Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Chirp Audiobooks
Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: rape, abortion, drug abuse, cults
I went into this novel having heard of it and subsequently posting it as a “pick my next audiobook” poll. I wish I could send everyone who voted on this one a thank you card because I listening to it in one sitting.
The prose in this work is tight and hypnotic, particular in its intentions and at times, incredibly heavy. None of the main characters are likable, but their journeys to the end of the narrative are simply fascinating.
Told from two POVs, this book follows the relationship of Will and Phoebe. Will lost his faith and transferred to secular college, trying to get his footing after a family tragedy makes him the family’s sole breadwinner. Phoebe is the girl he is obsessed with, who has much unprocessed grief resulting from the death of her mother. She finds solace in a Christian cult called Jejah, which is violently anti-abortion.
What struck me most about both narratives was just how their relationships to faith served as mirror against each other. My only experience with cults was several hours of listening to podcasts detailing the false promises and the farce that is a sense of belonging. But because Kwon so solidly established these characters’ backstories, their choices, unfortunately, fit the trajectory of tragedy that they are both set on (including the one decision Will makes about 70% of the book, content warning there). The dangers around the cult come from emergent properties of the characters, which to me, is absolutely horrifying.
I am reluctant to call this a dark academia book, because while the characters are in college during the plot, the primary focus is on their after-hours activities with dark character explorations and increasingly wicked cult activities.