I don’t even understand how a person writes a book like this.
Let me back up a little (oddly appropriate for this book – I’ll explain in a minute) and post the blurb from the back of the book, then we can get to what made this story so interesting:
“Nicolette Farrell has made a successful life for herself in Philadelphia. She has a job and a fiance, both of which she must leave behind in order to go home to Cooley Ridge to care for her father. She left ten years ago, not long after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared and was never found. Now, just days after Nic returns home, another girl goes missing in Cooley Ridge, reawakening Corinne’s case and breaking open old wounds not yet healed. All the primary people of interest in Corrine’s disappearance are still in town. Nic’s brother, Daniel, is expecting a baby with his wife. Corinne’s former boyfriend works at the local bar. And Tyler, Nic’s ex-boyfriend, is dating Annaleise Carter, who was the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. But now it’s Annaleise who is missing. Telling the story backward – Day 15 to Day 1 – Nic works to unravel the truth about Annaleise’s disappearance, revealing shocking secrets about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corrine that night ten years ago.”
Did you catch that? That part about telling the story backwards? Yeah. That.
Now, I’m a huge sucker for a story told out of order. I love being given just small pieces at a time and trying to puzzle it out as I go. I’ve read a few stories that jump all over the place in time and perspective and while I know it’s not for everyone (and doesn’t suit every story of course) it’s something I really enjoy, especially if it’s done really well. I don’t however, recall ever reading a story written backwards before, and man is it ever an experience.
I think it’s really important to know how your story is supposed to end before you even start, and I actually often start writing the ending of story before anything else. But I can’t really imagine the kind of thought, care and planning that needs to go into writing an entire story this way. To say I’m impressed is putting it mildly.
The story doesn’t start out backwards though. The first couple chapters are dedicated to Nic returning home and a little bit of insight towards the disappearance of her friend 10 years ago, then it jumps forward to 2 weeks after Annaleise disappears and from that point it starts working backwards day by day. It’s a very interesting way for a story to unfold, and the way details are revealed is very intriguing. It’s hard to actually put into words the feeling it evokes, to be moving through the events this way – the odd sensation of reading the aftermath of something without understanding yet what happened to cause it, awkward conversations that are taking place as a result of moments we have yet to see – it’s all kind of disorienting, and the more I try to think about it, the more confusing and blurry it gets. It makes you feel like you should know more than you know, and like all the answers are just out of reach. In my opinion, It fits the subject of this story perfectly.
I don’t think it’s unusual while reading to try to guess what will happen next. With a story like this you have no choice but to instead try to guess what happened before because you already know what happened next. But at the same time, what happened before is what happens next…from the readers perspective. Does that make sense at all? I can’t even tell at this point. This story did something to me, guys. I’m all confused and mixed up but in a good way.
This could have been a spectacular failure. Generally speaking, a good story needs to be able to ramp up intensity as you get closer to the conclusion, and I wasn’t really sure how that would work with a story like this. Somehow it did work though, in my opinion. As I neared the last 5 or 6 chapters, I couldn’t put the book down. As pieces started to fall into place I just had to know what would happen next, what the truth was. And oh man, I did not entirely suspect some of the things that were revealed. Certain parts were kind of predictable, I had a general idea about what the truth might be but the way things unfolded still caught me off guard. I also really found it interesting how as the story went on and we learned more about the people involved, the emotional impact of what happened shifted. By the end, I didn’t feel the way I suspected I might.
I am really tempted to re-read this story backwards, in order to put it in the correct order. Just so see what it’s like. I didn’t notice any huge plot holes, which would be something I would assume there could be a huge risk of when you’re writing a story this way but something that might be harder to catch by the reader.
Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts: Have you read this book? What did you think? What do you think of stories written out of order? Have you ever read a story written backwards? Drop me a recommendation if you can think of something you think I might like!
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