ARC Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn – WTF WAS THAT?!

18404113Genre: Young adult, Mystery, Psychological, Thriller
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Publishing House: St. Martin’s Griffin
Number of pages: 256
Source: ARC from Netgalley
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Two years ago, sixteen-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 elseBut today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. 

Mindfuck much?

…was pretty much what I felt upon finishing this book.

What the fuck? What the flying fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? fuck, fuck, fuck, what?!?!?!?!

…was pretty much what I said upon finishing this book.

I first encountered Stephanie Kuehn’s work last year with her Charm & Strangea mystery/psychological heart-rending book that somehow turned my world upside down while reading it. It was a story that was full of pain and anger and sadness, a story that moved me beyond tears. Aside from that, it was also a WTF book. It made me scream internally, my mind going crazy with questions and speculations. How can an author do something like that – make you understand and feel for a character so much while also make you stand on your toes, pace back and forth, wondering what other madness will happen? It was after that book when I felt the author’s promise as a brilliant storyteller.

And that was why I anticipated Complicit so much – the knowledge that Stephanie Kuehn already wrote a phenomenal book, and the anticipation whether or not she’ll do it again.

Well, news flash – she fricking did. Goodness, if Charm & Strange blew my mind, Complicit exploded it to smithereens.

And I’m not sure I’ll be able to repair the pieces back to normal. 

Jamie Henry is a normal 16 year old guy. Or so he thinks. What’s special about him, however, is that he doesn’t remember much about his past. And that he has a sister, Cate Henry, who has been imprisoned for various crimes. And that she’s unstable. And that she’s coming for him. Now. And he’s so afraid and paranoid, and also quite desperate to know about his past, and what she wants to tell him. Only that it may not be the truth he wants to hear.

Let’s talk about our main character, Jamie. First thing you’ll notice about him is that he has a such a raw and genuine voice. You feel the darkness, the pain, the paranoia, and the anger dripping from the pages, and all of those emotions make this book quite hard to read — not because it’s bad, but because you empathize with him so much to the point your heart tears for him and all you want to do is pat him on the back and whisper it’s going to be okay. You can really see how much his sister’s presence is haunting him, how the truth keeps chasing him and how he keeps evading it while also wanting to know more.

It’s like watching a cha-cha dance. The back and forth, over and over again. But add a lot of sweat, a lot of intensity, and a lot at stake.

And then there’s Cate. Cate is like a force to reckon with. She manipulates our hero, taunts him, makes him nervous. And every time, Jamie reacts in an anxious manner, and we see his paranoia increase by the second. The suspense, the air of mystery, the atmosphere, are so well-written; the clues all so well-placed; the truth so near and so far that it will actually kill you and make you afraid. Does that make sense? It’s like we know there’s going to be a big reveal in the coming pages, a reveal that will ultimately shaken our main character, and knowing what is to come will actually make you afraid. The hero is afraid of the truth, and I become afraid with him (while at the same time super curious already).

Some people will say that the big reveal is quite predictable. And I agree – if you read enough psychological thrillers you’ll already have an idea what it could be, but that honestly didn’t deter me from enjoying the novel at all. The execution of the climax is so powerful that it sweeps you off your feet. As for me, when I got to that part, I could barely even remember I existed – I was so glued to the book and  to the characters that it felt like I was in the story itself.

AND THAT ENDING.

THAT. FREAKING. ENDING.

The ending made the book for me. It was so cruel yet so utterly brilliant at the same time. I couldn’t think of anything but that ending for days after I finished the book. It felt like a giant tsunami wall charged at me and swallowed me up – so big and unexpected and you’re left powerless against it.

This book is coming out next week. Trust me when I say you need to read this one. IT WON’T DISAPPOINT.

Also, Stephanie Kuehn: I love you. Please, never stop writing.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Impact
Opening
Climax
Ending
Overall: 4.9


complicit question

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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    • FayeFaye says

      Aw, thanks for the compliment, Dre! I’m glad to know my opinion is well-appreciated! ^_^ And yes to mindfuckery! I love books that make you think and second-guess everything, and then turn your brains inside out because you just didn’t see that twist coming. Whoo!

    • FayeFaye says

      Hah, it must amuse you so to picture my brain being exploded? That’s not nice, Sophia! :P I hope you get to have your copy from the library soon :) It just released so you better check it out now to ensure you’re first in line!

    • FayeFaye says

      Well, now you’ve heard of her! ;) She’s an awesome writer, seriously underrated. She’s like a needle in a haystack, a diamond in the rough, and I’m just excited to see what she’ll cook up next when she keeps improving in the future :D She’s definitely not lame, and I suspect she’ll be bringing psychological thriller standards to new heights!

  1. says

    The discussion question: To be honest, I don’t think I ever have. I just think it forms a part of their development.

    This looks so good, Faye. I think I am definitely gonna check out this authors works. I like nothng better than when you have a book where you just have this need to spread it as far and as wide as you can in order to get people to read it.

    The whole concept looks really intriguing and it seems chocca full of twist and turns so it definitely looks like something I would like! :)

    Thanks for sharing, I am glad you enjoyed this one so much and great review! :D

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries
    Alex :) recently posted…Review: When She Woke by Hillary JordanMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I agree with you! If their development turns out to be different from what I initially thought, I usually don’t brood over it and welcome it instead.

      And I know what you mean! This book was such a phenomenal read in that aspect. The twists and turns were too much (epic). I wish I could read this again for the first time…

  2. says

    I haven’t read the author’s first book just yet, but it’s high up my TBR list. I can’t wait to read something by her, Faye, because you make this book sound beyond amazing. The characters, the mystery and the ending sound fantastic! I can tell that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy reading this mind-fuck of a book.
    Love the enthusiasm in your review, Faye! :)
    Nick @ Nick’s Book Blog recently posted…Review : On the Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Yay! I guess that means you’ll be reading Charm & Strange real soon, then? I hope you read this one soon after because that would really give you the awesome Kuehn Double Whammy Fix ;P

    • FayeFaye says

      Well, at least you enjoyed it still to a certain extent ;) I’d take that any day! Have you read her debut work yet? It’s really good, too!

  3. laila bc says

    Well now u got me curious so so curious… I’m not into psychological mystery so much but I will give this a try.

    • FayeFaye says

      Please do, Laila! A lot of psychological thrillers out there do the same thing over and over again, but I’m confident Kuehn delivers something more than what we usually get. She’s definitely setting the bar high!

  4. says

    I hadn’t had this one of my radar before and didn’t even know about this author but like you’ve made me serouisly consider dropping everything and picking up this book! IT SOUNDS SO GOOD! And i’ve been in the mood for s mindfuck read in like forever. I love being so completely mindf*cked by a book it’s like the greatest experience ever! I NEED THIS BOOK NOW
    lily recently posted…The Distance Between Us: ReviewMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I’m glad to know that! I really hope you do drop everything and pick this up because it’s simply so, so, so worth it. I assure you of that!

  5. says

    WHOA. I’m now wanting to curl in a corner and hide from the craziness of this book, and also go and find it RIGHT NOW. I love books that mess with your head, and also get you inside of a character, both of which this one does. I didn’t read Charm & Strange but it looks like I need to get back to it. You definitely sold me on this one!
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Ten Books I Plan to Read this SummerMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Yay! That makes me so happy, Lauren. This book really does have a lot of craziness in it (but in an epic way, don’t worry!) and I’m crossing my fingers it screws you over like it screwed me. ;)

  6. says

    Yeah… you got me at “what the flying fuck?”, that’s one of my favourite sayings and I’ve uttered it more than once while reading an awesome but mind fuck of a book!
    I need to get Charm & Strange by this author already it seems, and of course I need to add this book to the TBR like now!
    Thanks for a fantastic review, Faye!
    I do love me a well done unreliable narrator, even if the reveal with change my mind and break my heart!
    Pili recently posted…Ink & Batter #7: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins!!My Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Hahaha! I love it when I end up saying that towards a book! :D Okay, maybe not all the time, because I say that, too, when I encounter bad ones…

      And you’re welcome. Unreliable narrators are awesome. I love it when they keep me second-guessing. They’re super complex!

    • FayeFaye says

      YES! This one was just a splendid read, Emily. I really think you’ll like this one. I’ve read a lot of psychological thrillers, and it becomes a bit hard to please me in this genre now, but this one really set the bar high. READ IT!

    • FayeFaye says

      Oh, man. I’m so jealous that you met Stephanie Kuehn up close and personal. I would have loved to meet her, too! She seems like a genuine and nice person to hang out and discuss books with. Plus, I also want to see how she thinks of the stuff she writes… I wish I could be that good.

      Thank you, Rachel! I hope you like it too when you get to it.

  7. says

    Excellent review, Faye! I’ve had Kuehn on my radar since your review of her last book but I am such a failure because I haven’t read it yet even though I have it. But now I want this one. BUT I WILL RESIST until I’m done with that one- btw, which one in your opinion was better? I know hard but do tell me! (I’m nothing but but(t)s. Heeheee.)
    Stuti recently posted…Summer of YesterdayMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Ugh, Stuti! I am so disappointed in you :P Why haven’t you bothered with it yet?! Haha, just kidding. But I seriously hope you read something from this author, too. Ideally read them in a row :P And I like both! Charm and Strange was a mindfuck, too, but in a such tragic way. This one was a mindfuck in an explosive one. It’s so hard to decide!

    • FayeFaye says

      Miguel, you should’ve trusted your gut and went along with this. It was a super awesome read, and I’m glad to know my, erm, enthusiastic review has pushed you to try this one out. Haha. Thank you so much and I hope you like this.

  8. says

    OMG OMG I NEED THIS BOOK SO VERY MUCH. I AM SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT!!!! 4.9??!! WHEEEEEEE. Also: I haven’t read Charm & Strange yet, but I’m going to ASAP and I’ve kind of been in love with her back cover blurbs for ages. I’m so relieved this one’s going to be awesome. (Like, I totally almost always have similar opinions to you when I read, lol, WHICH IS AWESOME AND HELPFUL). ‘Scuse all the all-caps. I’m excited! I can’t wait to read this!!
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…I explain my Bird Phobia and review As Stars Fall by Christie NiemanMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      4.9 is suuuuper high! And oh, I just saw you receive Charm & Strange from Aimee’s giveaway, and I pretty much squealed in delight. I just kept thinking, “Oh, man, Cait is going to love reading that, and her review is going to give me the warm fuzzies.” This one is already out too, but I’m not sure if they’re available in AU. I hope the pubs there pick it up soon!

  9. says

    I’m so nervous to read this Faye!!!! I like books that mess with my head sometimes, but other times they just get too strange and mess with me too much and I get all out of sorts. I’m super intrigued after reading your review though, and I kind of want to flip straight to the back and see what the end’s all about. Yes, I’m a cheater. I can’t help it!!!!
    Jenny @ Supernatural Snark recently posted…Guest Post: M.K. Hutchins + DriftMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Haha, I totally get what you mean. I’m pretty sure I was shaken up right after I read this, too. But I actually welcome that mess in my head! It’s such an interesting feeling because you know the book was effective. Its goal is to make you feel that way, after all. As for this one, please, please, please DON’T flip to the end! It will ruin the experience!!! Haha~

  10. says

    I love books which literally tear you to shreds, I did read Charm & Strange, but unfortunately it didn’t leave the greatest impression with me as it did with other readers, but this book has me highly excited to give it a go. I love it when you form strong connections with characters and you want everything to work out for them. I am also highly intrigued about how things end. It feels like a long time since I read a book which I was left thinking about for days afterwards. Thank you for putting this book on my radar Faye!
    Jasprit recently posted…Series… I need your help!My Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Aww, I’m sorry you didn’t like Charm and Strange that much! Thankfully, this one is highly different compared to her debut work, although I think both of them are very WTF. The ending was one I never saw coming, and something that I still think about for days. It’s just… ugh. I hate it while at the same time, I love it. Does that make sense?

      In any case, thanks Jasprit!

  11. says

    Great review, Faye. I’ll be sure to keep this one in mind the next time I want my mind friggin’ blown ;) I’m not sure if I already have Charm and Strange or not, but it sounds familiar, so I’ll have to check. As for being afraid of the “truth” in a novel b/c it will ruin my perception of the MC . . . YES. Maybe? I don’t think I’m ever afraid, so much as I stubbornly refuse to accept it until the bitter end. Case in point–Sookie Stackhouse. Even though what was going to happen became obvious by around book 10, I did not care. I held out hope. Maybe she’s just faking us out. There’s still time to turn it around.

    Pfft. Obstinate, thy name is JESSICA.
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh BardugoMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I hope you get to Charm & Strange soon, Jessica. It’s really different but man, did it pack a punch. And, and, and this one, too! Don’t forget this one! :D Which also reminds me I need to read Sookie Stackhouse, but I heard the last book was awful >-<

  12. says

    For the discussion question: Yes, there are times I don’t want the truth because after feeling connected to a character and understanding his/her reasons for doing so, I tend to hope something good will happen in the end.

    I thought this book was bad because of so many “fuck” lol but wow. 4.9? I must try this. I am kinda getting tired of broken, stupid, contemporary characters these past few days and I am thinking of trying something like this, something that will make me think, or something with a “Killing Sarai” flavor. Maybe this is what I’m looking for, and I want some mindfuck. Great review Faye :)
    Ella recently posted…Review: Perfect Kind Of Trouble by Chelsea FineMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Great answer, Ella, and I agree with that. Sometimes I like a character so much that I don’t want my perception of him to be distorted, but I recognize it may be necessary to move the plot along and for character development as well.

      I think this will be your kinda book then! This still has a broken character, but not in a stupid angsty kinda way. He tries to find out more about his past, but, well… it just so happens the past may not be a good one after all.

    • FayeFaye says

      Thank you so much, Cristina! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (And I hope it screws with your brain, too… haha, just kidding.)

  13. Larissa says

    Wow, I’ll be definitely checking this story out now. I always love a great filler (DANGEROUS GIRLS AHHHH) and this one seems like it’d be right up my alley. I just love a great mystery with a total game changing ending. I haven’t read anything by this author, although I’ve heard endless praise for Charm & Strange. Along with your wonderful review, this praise makes me want to read Complicit even more.

    Mind fuck books are so fun (: I actually love being confused, and pondering it even when the book has long finished. It just leads to so many possibilities and interpretations. Discussing the book with others who have finished is also very enlightening and fun. You can share your love of the mind fuckery together! Everything in this book sounds stellar: plot, characters, ending, mystery aghhh.

    “You feel the darkness, the pain, the paranoia, and the anger dripping from the pages, and all of those emotions make this book quite hard to read — not because it’s bad, but because you empathize with him so much to the point your heart tears for him and all you want to do is pat him on the back and whisper it’s going to be okay. ”

    That is the quote from this review that has convinced me 150 percent to read this book. If you get so much emotion from a story then that’s a tell tale sign that this story is amazingly well written.

    Truly fantastic review Faye! Your lovely descriptions of this book makes me want to buy it the minute it comes out <33

    • FayeFaye says

      Oh, in that case, if you loved how the ending of Dangerous Girls felt for you, then this one would be no different. I swear I was staring at the pages for a good 5 minute, trying to process EVERYTHING. And I agree, mindfuck books are something else. I love what they do to me and how easily they make me crazy. That’s why you need to get to this one soon so we can discuss already.

    • FayeFaye says

      Me, too! We all know how Dangerous Girls got into our minds, and this one is just as good as that, at least in the explosive twist department. I can’t wait for you to read it. Kyaaa!

  14. says

    When Faye loves a book, well most of us ate guaranteed to love it as well. I love seeing high rated books from fussy readers, then you know it’s all sorts of awesome. Your review has me really wanting to give this one a go, I can slide either way when it comes to find fuckery, but when it’s done well, as this one sounds like, I’m really excited. Fantastic review!
    Kelly recently posted…The Word Ghost by Christine PaiceMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Awww, such high praise coming from you, Kelly! Thank you so much for the vote of confidence ;) I feel the same way towards critical reviewers like Khanh and Litchick :D If they think it’s awesome, then there must really be something about it that makes it so! I hope you get to this one soon, Kelly!

  15. says

    OHMIGHAD. THIS ONE LOOKS GOOD :D I’ve always had this fascination with thriller mysteries. But for me, its hard to find a book that’s just right for my taste, but it looks like I’m gonna like this one. I’m so happy that you loved this one Faye! From the sounds of your review, it sounds so suspenseful and as you said, scary. I already have a visual on my head. I can’t wait to get my hands on this :D
    Jules recently posted…Book Review: The Destiny of Violet and Luke by Jessica SorensenMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Oh, man. Kuehn is a different standard all by herself when it comes to this genre. I really think this would be right up your alley, Jules, and I say that with utmost sincerity.

  16. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) says

    Oh gosh are you alright Faye? I requested this on Netgalley a while ago but got rejected because they reached their galley limit but I will definitely be picking up a copy because everyone’s reactions lol. It looks so good from reading your review, very curious about that ending you speak of :O

    Fantastic review, Faye! <33

    • FayeFaye says

      Haha, I am definitely fine now, but I can’t say the same to my condition when I finished the book ;) Thankfully I’m way past that stage haha. Great thing it has been released now! The ending’s super awesome and I’m positive it will blow you away, too.

  17. says

    Omg this book seems to be gorgeous inside AND out. Seriously, whenever you go crazy over a book, I feel like I need to pick it up RIGHT AWAY. *stares at TBR pile and cries* I can’t wait to get around to this, I’m so curious I might turn into a cat. WAHH I WANNA KNOW WHAT THE ENDING IS.
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…Book Review: Dead Ends by Erin LangeMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      It indeed is, Joy! ^^ Once again, thanks for the vote of confidence… you guys REALLY do give me too much credit :P Haha! Screw that TBR pile, get this one now! I’m certain you’ll love it!

  18. says

    I am SO excited about this book. I was looking forward to it before, but now your review makes me want it a hundred times more. I love a great WTF book! Anything that messes with your mind and stays in your thoughts long after the end is a good read for me. You’ve made me super curious about the ending now. I can’t wait to find out what happens in this one. Brilliant review!
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted…Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR ListMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I love a WTF book, too! It’s this kind of books that remind me there are still other ways to screw with your readers mind (and to think I’m the kind of person who keeps saying “pffft, I’ve seen that one coming!”). I hope you liked the ending too, Sam. And I hope you’ll still be sane enough after that :P

  19. says

    Um, ok. That’s how I felt this morning after I finished reading a book. I’m so glad that this particular author is working so well for you! I’m so glad that the ending surprised you and that it was a thrilling read :) Not sure if it is for me, but yayyyy that you enjoyed it, Faye!
    Siiri recently posted…Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie KagawaMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Yes! This is my second book from her, and her first one was such a good read as well. She’s very consistent in her awesome writing skills.

    • FayeFaye says

      Haha! I just read your review Jen and I thought it was awesome ;) You definitely hit the nail on the head with that one!

  20. says

    Books that mess with my mind and/or make me go “WTF?!?!” are some of my favorite types of reads. This one sounds absolutely brilliant! Even if the resolution was a tad predictable, I’m glad to hear that didn’t have much – if any – of an affect on your enjoyment of the novel. Definitely going to give this a try! Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <33
    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted…The Half Life of Molly PierceMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      ME, TOO! Remember Dangerous Girls? Man, that book was too good. I’d say this one is in the same league, at least when it comes to the ending, although the one here was a bit more… cruel. And brilliant.

    • FayeFaye says

      Yes, I think so! Especially if you like authors that breathe new things into a saturated genre. Kuehn is somehow so different compared to other writers in this genre… I can’t say what for sure. Read her works and help me find out the reason ;)