Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
CW: drug use, drug dealing, car accident, kidnapping, mental illness, hoarding, and death
I’m a big fan of Bryn Greenwood. Her first book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, blew me away. It was a fantastic book and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for her next book. When I saw it on Netgalley, I clicked that button so fast. And now I’ve read it!
As usual, Greenwood looks at the uglier side of Kansas. Drugs, hoarding, white supremacy, jail. She takes characters who maybe aren’t ones you would root for, but you find yourself drawn into their stories in a way that you can’t deny is compelling. She’s really just fantastic and I cannot emphasize enough how quickly you should pick her up. If you were turned off by the idea of her first novel, this one is far less polarizing.
The story follows Zhorza, or Zee, after another bad thing has happened in her life. Her father was in jail growing up, her mother’s a hoarder, her relationship with her sister is iffy, she has been hit by a car, and she deals drugs on the side to make ends meet. Her sister, LaReigne, has been kidnapped after convicts escape from the jail she volunteers at. This leaves her young son, Marcus, in Zee’s hands while they wait to find out what’s going on.
Then, there’s Gentry. Gentry is schizophrenic and autistic. He believes he’s a knight s and has multiple voices that talk to him, including a witch and a black (i.e. evil/bad) knight. Two years ago, he met Zee when she was on her way to physical therapy after her car accident. And, he was told that he’s to be her knight and champion for the rest of his days. All very chivalric (and I loved the research that Greenwood put into that to make it believable) and great.
I loved how this book shows mental illness — especially schizophrenia since people with it are so often characterized as a danger to themselves and others — and how it can be managed without medication. Those medications, whether they’re typical or atypical antipsychotics, have a lot of harsh side effects. Yes, some people need them. But that shouldn’t be the first option unless the person is in a full-blown psychotic episode and needs to be brought back to figure out how to manage it best. And I just loved how Gentry was Gentry and, really, everyone learned to accept him for who he was despite his oddities.
I do wish that the story had a more specific plot. The story finally made sense at the end, especially when I reflected on the title. But, other than that, it felt more meandering. It was a lot like Greenwood’s first novel. There’s no huge plot — and I think I’m used to distinctive plots because of reading lots of fantasy; those usually have a definite goal — and it’s told through multiple perspectives. Zee, Gentry, Marcus, some detectives, some people they meet along the way of the story.
But boy was it beautiful. It was just a great read and I could sink into it. The characters were as fantastic as I expected and Greenwood’s writing was just as amazing. I’m pretty sure that this book is going to be liked and I can’t wait to put it in a spot on my shelves!
Have you read anything by Greenwood yet?
Is this one on your TBR?