These are the three words that come to mind as I write a review for Frayed by Kara Terzis. It has been a long time since I felt so strongly about a book. I disliked characters and the plot itself so intensely!
I won’t bother to go through a synopsis, because you can read it on GoodReads here. Let’s just get to the review, because I feel close to bursting with sheer frustration! If you had Frayed on your reading list, perhaps I can save you some trouble.
More than halfway through the book, Ava is no closer to finding out who killed her sister, Kelsey, why she was killed, or how and why Kelsey turned out to be someone so different than Ava thought she was. We don’t even learn a smidgen more about how Ava came to be involved in the accident that scarred the entire left side of her face. Instead, we’re subjected to Ava’s stream-of-consciousness inner dialogue as she learns about her sister’s “gang” (just about it, not any details, mind you), her boyfriend’s betrayal – twice over – and her best friend’s betrayal. We are also subjected to the incredibly ungrateful thoughts she has towards her foster mother, who lovingly raised Ava and Kelsey since childhood, and to whom Ava alternates between referring as “Diane” and “my mother.”
Ava, as the main character, is unremarkable, decidedly dull, and frankly, dumb. She doesn’t have the wherewithal to realize that, if you’ve been dating the same guy for 2 years, and he still can’t bring himself to look at the side of your face that’s scarred, he’s probably NOT the one for you! Ava’s judgment on best friends is lacking, too, and she even seems to know it, when she says that Lia had always “been there” for her, but “just some of the time – only when it suited her.” Yet, she still seems shocked when her boyfriend and best friend are caught canoodling together – in a scene that was so contrived, it actually made me laugh. And then, a few days later, these two people with whom Ava was supposedly so close, have no problem flaunting their new relationship at school – without ever having bothered to talk to her about it. It’s just all too unbelievable to me.
Then, as I mentioned, there’s Ava’s attitude towards her foster mother: “I had never considered Diana to be a strong woman emotionally, so how was I supposed to tell her that her daughter wasn’t the person she thought she was?” Later in the story, Ava observes that, even during Kelsey’s funeral, Diana spent more time comforting her than crying. More than that, Diana chose to foster and then to adopt two little orphaned girls. Exactly what, about that incredibly heroic decision, makes you think she is not a “strong woman emotionally,” you dumb, naïve, ungrateful twat?!
The girl gang, and I use that phrase very loosely here, is a laughable aspect of this plot. We’re given hints at just how bad these girls are – they drink, they smoke, they’re bullies, they dabble in graffiti and steal candy bars – yet, I was not convinced. Why did the author choose to make the “bad girls” in this story do the most cliché things? I don’t know, but the whole inclusion of it did nothing for the plot.
Then, there’s Rafe. Ava’s supposed hero, when things go sour between her and various people in her life. The boy who shows up, unannounced, in her bedroom and in her home because he knows where the spare key is. Why is it OKAY with everyone that boys in stories do this?! It’s NOT okay! Even if he touches your scarred cheek and shows you some attention. NOT. OKAY. Rafe treats Ava like she’s fragile and dumb, and maybe she is, but his incessant need to be vague with her around the subject of her own sister was maddening.
Then, there comes the “dead girl.” That sounds callous, I know. I have absolutely zero empathy for the girl who was murdered because we learn absolutely nothing about her, other than the fact that she had a rough life, and she turned out to be a rather nasty person. Throughout the narrative, the finger was pointed at several different people for the murder -- for the most ridiculous reasons! I know murderers don't need a "good reason" to kill someone, but the reasons this group came up with stuck in my craw. Even at 71% in, there's still not even a hint as to who may have killed her or why. At that point, I didn’t even care anymore.
I eventually scanned ahead to the end, to see who the killer turned out to be. Yet, even ultimately knowing how and why, I felt dissatisfied and ill-at-ease. Yes, the end does tie some loose ends and inconsistencies together. However, the characters, all of them, are unlikable and seriously disturbed -- the type of disturbed I don’t find amusing or entertaining.
I could go on, and on, listing my issues with this book, but I feel I’d be beating a dead horse. I’ve made it clear that I did not like this book, and I would not recommend it to anyone. With that said, it’s only fair to note that I did read the Advanced Reading Copy of Frayed, and there’s a chance that the things that bothered me will be addressed in the published copy – but I doubt it.
Though this was not the read for me, I thank Sourcebooks Fire for allowing me to read an Advanced Reading Copy.