Kate’s Review: “Limetown”

30363835Book: “Limetown” by Cote Smith, Zack Akers, and Skip Bronkie

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster, November 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I was given an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley.

Book Description: From the creators of the #1 podcast Limetown, an explosive prequel about a teenager who learns of a mysterious research facility where over three hundred people have disappeared—including her uncle—with clues that become the key to discovering the secrets of this strange town.

On a seemingly ordinary day, seventeen-year-old Lia Haddock hears news that will change her life forever: three hundred men, women, and children living at a research facility in Limetown, Tennessee, have disappeared without a trace. Among the missing is Emile Haddock, Lia’s uncle. 

What happened to the people of Limetown? It’s all anyone can talk about. Except Lia’s parents, who refuse to discuss what might have happened there. They refuse, even, to discuss anything to do with Emile.

As a student journalist, Lia begins an investigation that will take her far from her home, discovering clues about Emile’s past that lead to a shocking secret—one with unimaginable implications not only for the people of Limetown, but for Lia and her family. The only problem is…she’s not the only one looking for answers. 

Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie are first-rate storytellers, in every medium. Critics called their podcast Limetown “creepy and otherworldly” (The New York Times) and “endlessly fun” (Vox), and their novel goes back to where it all began. Working with Cote Smith, a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize Finalist, they’ve crafted an exhilarating mystery that asks big questions about what we owe to our families and what we owe to ourselves, about loss, discovery, and growth. Threaded throughout is Emile’s story—told in these pages for the first time ever.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for sending me an eARC of this book!

As the resident podcast junkie on this blog, it may be a bit surprising that until recently I hadn’t set aside time to listen to “Limetown”. For those unfamiliar, “Limetown” is a fictional thriller/supernatural podcast that is written in a “Serial”-esque format, following journalist Lia Haddock as she investigates the mysterious disappearance of an entire town population. Given that it’s totally up my alley, I don’t really know why I didn’t put it in the constant rotation of podcasts I listen to. But when I was given an invitation to read “Limetown”, the prequel novel, by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley, I decided that it was time to listen. I devoured the podcast in a couple days time, totally taken in by the mystery and the creepiness as Lia gets closer and closer to the solution, and the conspiracy, involving the town, the research it was doing, and the connection it had to her missing uncle Emile. And once I was done with that, I felt that it was time to finally read the prequel novel, hoping that it would expand upon the universe and give us some insight into the brand new Season 2.

I didn’t quite get that from “Limetown”, and I’m starting to wonder if the ever expanding media connections to podcasts is really necessary.

I’ll start with the good first, as I am wont to do. Given that the podcast “Limetown” is laid out in an investigative format, all we are seeing is what Lia Haddock, the host of the show, would have access to. Given that that narrative structure is only going to give us so much, I did like that we got to see a LOT more about Limetown within the novel. A lot of this comes from the storyline concerning Emile, Lia’s uncle who disappeared when the town population did. While the podcast does let us in on the true purpose of Limetown (spoilers: it’s a place that was being used as a research facility for psychic abilities in humans), getting to see Emile make his journey from outsider teenager to Limetown resident definitely shed some insight that we didn’t get to see otherwise. I liked Emile’s perspective and his somewhat tragic story, a person with abilities and feels on the outside of those around him. His connection to his brother Jacob (Lia’s father) is expanded upon, as is his relationship to Lia’s mother Alison. I definitely enjoyed his parts of the story. I had bigger problems with Lia’s parts. I like Lia as a character both in book and on the podcast, but within this prequel I feel like they retconned quite a bit about her character because of things she finds out in the book as opposed to what we THINK she knows in the podcast. There are certain moments and revelations within the narrative of the book that I would have THOUGHT that she would have addressed in the podcast just based on her character and her drive to find the truth, but as it is, in spite of the fact the book is definitely BEFORE the podcast, it seems that these truths either a) aren’t what they seem and the podcast is more unreliable than we thought, or b) don’t match up because of an unplanned prequel book. I’m inclined to believe the latter.

This isn’t a BAD book, and I think that fans of the podcast would definitely find things within it to like. But, much like “Welcome to Night Vale”, I’m not certain that it would stand on it’s own two feet to non-fans to intrigue them enough to bring them into the fold. Does it have to? No. But I do think that if the show wants to perhaps reach out to non-fans to build their fandom, their non-podcast media should be able to stand alone.

It’s not an unfamiliar story for a podcast to get expansions via other means of consumable content. “Welcome to Night Vale” has two books now. “Dirty John” is getting a TV adaptation with Connie Britton and Eric Bana. Julia Roberts is starring in an Amazon Prime Adaptation of “Homecoming”. And hell, even “Limetown” is getting a Facebook Watch adaptation starring Jessica Biel along with this book. It will be interesting to see how these various adaptations fare. But if they aren’t bringing in many reasons to expand, it may end up feeling a bit pointless. “Limetown” the book was fine, but I don’t see it as being essential reading.

Rating 6: While I enjoyed learning some new things about the mysterious Emile, “Limetown” didn’t feel like it expanded much on the universe at hand, and it didn’t feel like it could bring an unfamiliar person in.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Limetown” is included on the Goodreads lists “Books Based on Podcasts”, and “Podcast Books”.

Find “Limetown” at your library using WorldCat!

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