Book Review: The Killing Jar
ashley | When I tweeted about my excitement for receiving an ARC of The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth, Bosworth (@jennbosworth) responded with a warning that I might decide to join a hippie commune and to expect a strange experience. Libby Cudmore (@libbycudmore) also tweeted that any book named for a Siouxsie & The Banshees song is going on her shelf. And that cover – definitely one of my favourite covers I had seen in a while. I hadn’t even cracked the cover and this book was already creating conversation, something that it wouldn’t stop doing throughout its entirety. Bosworth wasn’t kidding, this was quite the experience! A very, very strange experience.
This packs a punch right from the start. I liked how we were introduced to Kenna and what makes her special right from the start. Usually this makes it seem like there’s no intrigue left, but the way we see it and how it’s described through a child’s eyes and experience adds such sympathy to the situation. It sets the tone for the entire book. This wasn’t super fast moving, but it also wasn’t slow. Everything sort of rolls out just as you need it to, making this a well paced, quick read.
If you want to win me over in a book, put in something about music. Kenna schools her musically challenged neighbour early on and from that moment, I’m sold. I’m her fan. I have her back. I don’t care what secrets she’s harbouring, anyone who knows their music is fine by me. I also thought it was refreshing that your typical girl and boy friendship on the brink of being more wasn’t stalled because they couldn’t figure out they secretly had the hots for each other. There was a life threatening reason why Kenna couldn’t get close to Blake and she was very aware of her feelings and this issue interfering with it. For once, the will they won’t they relationship struggle of YA didn’t bother me.
As Bosworth warned, there’s quite an intriguing allure of a secluded commune, one in which time and days of the week cease to exist. One where you are surrounded with people who you feel like you belong with, who understand you. Stripping away all the ego, materialism and tangible essence of the real world. There’s something to be said about stripping everything away and starting from the beginning again, a simplistic, natural way of life. It sounded like a nice break. Nothing can go wrong with such a paradise, right?
I applaud the cleverness of the writing and the story here. I love how perfectly the small pieces came together, what inspired the title of the book, what pieces in the beginning came back to shadow something bigger in the middle and towards the end. Bosworth has cleverly laid out some very intimate details that flawlessly filled the small gaps from point A to point B.
But what I did have a problem with was some of the other connections in the book, specifically between characters. Things just seemed really… unstable and indecisive at times. Did Kenna’s mother love her or was she scared of her? Did she want to protect her or ship her off to the commune and be rid of her? Did Kenna love her mother? Did she love Blake? She forgot about him pretty quickly. Did her grandmother love anyone? Obviously there were complex emotions intertwined in their relationships when everything comes to light, but it seemed like all these characters loved and hated each other and I didn’t find a consistent drive in any of them for some of the things that were happening. Maybe there just wasn’t enough character building, or we didn’t have time to really feel what they were feeling. It just seemed a little… underdeveloped.
I also didn’t understand why Kenna’s mother wasn’t more forthcoming with information about the commune, or why she would have brought her back there. She had to have known the truth about them, that had to be why she wanted to leave, but she willingly turned over her daughter to them? At times it just felt like Kenna was running in circles or running on a hamster wheel not really going anywhere and this was frustrating to follow.
Despite that, this was a very cool, very strange, unique story. Not necessarily for everyone, but I really liked the concept. The climax was a bit underwhelming, it made sense and I liked how it played out but I guess I was expecting a bigger impact? The lack of that might have come from some of those murky relationship connections I felt earlier, I find I didn’t really care so much about the outcome of certain people. But Kenna eventually figured things out, eventually found the balance between her dark and light and this very strange story left me feeling weirdly confused about how I felt about the whole reason for the existence of the commune. I was still somewhat drawn to it, like a moth to a flame.
january 12, 2016