It’s no spoiler to mention there is a major twist – or two – in this book. All the reviews are talking about it and the back cover blurb even mentions it. And while I can say the twist is a total gut-punch, and yes, one I did not see coming, I also feel a tad bit cheated about it. The misdirection is so prominent, that what you think, is quite literally, the only thing you could think. It’s as if the author has gone out of her way, to set that up. And the rest of the novel was written around it.
Having said that tho’, this really is an enjoyable novel. A story of loneliness and despair and the overwhelming desire and need to just escape from everything.
We’re dumped right into the action with the story opening with Emily running away. What follows is her attempt to make a new life for herself in London, away from whatever it is that is haunting her. She finds a room to rent, a new job and a new best friend. And then she slowly spirals down into a sort-of functioning drug addict, which culminates in a new tragedy…and the outing of her closely-kept secret.
Along the way, we are given flashbacks to her previous life – the meeting and falling in love with and marrying her husband Ben and starting a family; her relationship with her complete and utter bitch of a twin sister Caroline; tales that show us her relationship with her parents. We’re given a few chapters from the POV of Caroline, who even at an early age, sensed her mother’s dislike for her and reacted accordingly. A few chapters about their father, a dowdy meek man who grows apart from his wife after the birth of the twins and indulges in affairs.
The flashbacks to the birth and childhood of the twins, told from the POV of their mother, are very interesting. You really do understand why Caroline is the bitch she is, and why Emily so easily bows to her sister – although being the mother of teenagers myself, you kinda want to grab Caroline and shake her and tell her to get over herself and stop blaming her parents for all her choices! Ah but then, that’s teenagers, right? – and the slow disintegration of the parents marriage and love.
On the other hand, we have chapters of Emily’s new best friend Angel’s childhood. And they really weren’t necessary. Angel is more of a plot device to show Emily that running away from problems doesn’t really help and to send her down her spiral into drug taking, club bopping, shoplifting and all-round unlikeable life. Angel’s story is a bit of a waste – she’s simply just not that important to the story as a whole for us to read constant pages of her growing up in seedy surroundings with a mother who didn’t care.
And on yet another hand (yes, I have a few hands), the only thing we really get to know about Ben, Emily’s husband, is that he was utterly in love with her, was devastated when she left and desperately wants to find her. As a character who is a major part of Emily’s life, and a big part of why she left, he is quite flat and one-dimensional, sadly.
The twist when it comes, is a major moment of “WTF??…huh, wait, that can’t be right…what???” And because the misdirection and misinformation in the preceding novel is so great, you start to wonder if the author had the twist first, and then built the novel around that. But it is a good twist, and it completely explains Emily’s actions and why she would run away and try to lose herself. And I started to like Emily then, cos up to that point, she was quite an unlikeable character. In fact, I don’t think there really is a likeable character in the whole novel – except perhaps for Ben, but then we know so little of him and don’t really get to know him, that he’s kinda not even likeable or unlikeable. He’s just….there.
The prologue has a twist or two also – one that had me going “WTF??? how the hell did THAT happen???” And it’s one that just felt like the author was trying to trick us – it didn’t feel a natural progression of the story.
Look, One Step Too Far is a difficult novel to review. Because the whole premise of the story rests on a major twist in the plotline, you can’t say too much. And it’s difficult to talk about why I liked it and why I didn’t like it, without giving it away.
Nevertheless, it is well-written and I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5.