Kate’s Review: “Never Saw Me Coming”

Book: “Never Saw Me Coming” by Vera Kurian

Publishing Info: Park Row, September 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Meet Chloe Sevre. She’s a freshman honor student, a leggings-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study for psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

Never Saw Me Coming is a compulsive, voice-driven thriller by an exciting new voice in fiction, that will keep you pinned to the page and rooting for a would-be killer.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I’ve made it very well known that I enjoy thriller novels that will spotlight creepy or unsettling characters, and if they are doing bad things, well, hey, I’m still in. I also have mentioned before that I got my B.A. in Psychology with a focus on Abnormal Psych, with another focus on Psychopathy. If a person writes a book from a psychopath’s POV, and they do it well, AND they make it amusing from time to time, sign me right up please! And that brings us to “Never Saw Me Coming” by Vera Kurian. Not only do we have one psychopath character, we have multiple! And not only that, they have to band together to figure out who is trying to kill them! All of this sounded like a hoot, and I was eager to dive in.

The mystery of who is killing off these psychopaths one by one sets up for an interesting dilemma that our characters find themselves in. After all, psychopaths tend to have little loyalties outside of themselves, and therefore in this context that means that it could be any one of them, so they can’t trust each other, even though they HAVE to trust each other. I liked that concept to be sure, and seeing Chloe, Charles, and Andre try and calculate how they could get information from each other, manipulate each other, AND confide in each other without being worried about being stabbed in the back by each other. The mystery itself had some pretty well done twists and details (and a VERY creative death involving an MRI machine), though in the end I kind of saw the solution coming from aways away. That didn’t make the journey to the solution less fun, per se, but I think that had it blown me away it would have been better. But another big plus is that we get to see psychopaths (for the most part) as not necessarily pop culture serial killers, but as people who can be nonviolent and successful… as well as manipulative, fearless, and lacking empathy. We don’t really think of that side of psychopaths as much, which is far more common.

But it’s the characters that this story gets its best strengths, as Kurian has a fun cast, most of whom are deeply, deeply unsettling. We follow three for most of the narrative. The first is Charles, a wealthy and somewhat spoiled frat boy who is doing his best to keep up appearances and to appear normal, with a lovely girlfriend, a group of friends, and a solid academic record. The second in Andre (and we’re going to come back to him), who has a full scholarship to the school because of his participation in the study, but who isn’t ACTUALLY a psychopath. And the third and most prominent is Chloe, who gets third AND first person perspectives, because not only is she trying not to be killed by a mystery killer, she is ALSO planning a bloody revenge on a student named Will. Chloe knew Will when they were younger, and after he assaulted her she has been planning to take her revenge, and now being a target herself could screw all that up. Chloe is definitely the star of the show, and she has some creepy and enjoyable moments. But it’s Andre that I wanted to know the most about, as his story is one that connects to institutional racism. Andre is Black, and when he was a kid his older sister died unexpectedly and tragically. Andre, unable to process this trauma, began acting out, and a counselor just wrote him off as having Conduct Disorder because of his race, and Andre decided to roll with it as a joke… Until he was offered a full scholarship that would change his life. NOW he has to try and keep up appearances, AND he has to try and stay alive. I thought that this was the best storyline, personally, and I wish we had more of him. That said, all of the characters were entertaining, as was the book itself in a gallows humor kind of way.

“Never Saw Me Coming” joins the ranks of other unreliable or psychopathic narrators, but gives us a bit more of a look into how many psychopaths function when you strip away the idea of a serial killer (mystery killer and Chloe notwithstanding). Thriller fans with a wicked streak should definitely pick it up!

Rating 8: A dark, unsettling, and wickedly fun thriller that gets you rooting for a few psychopaths, “Never Saw Me Coming” has some creepy but intriguing characters that will suck you in.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Never Saw Me Coming” is included on the Goodreads lists “Dark Academia”, and “I Like Serial Killers”.

Find “Never Saw Me Coming” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Serena’s Review: “Into the Dying Light”

Book: “Into the Dying Light” by Katy Rose Pool

Publishing Info: Henry Holt and Co., September 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Book Description: Following the destruction of the City of Mercy, an ancient god has been resurrected and sealed inside Beru’s body. Both are at the mercy of the Prophet Pallas, who wields the god’s powers to subjugate the Six Prophetic Cities. But every day, the god grows stronger, threatening to break free and sow untold destruction.

Meanwhile, far away from Pallas Athos, Anton learns to harness his full powers as a Prophet. Armed with the truth about how the original Prophets killed the god, Anton leads Jude, Hassan, and Ephyra on a desperate quest to the edge of the world. With time running out, the group’s tenuous alliance is beset by mounting danger, tumultuous romance, and most of all by a secret that Anton is hiding: a way to destroy the god at the price of an unbearable sacrifice. But the cost of keeping that secret might be their lives—and the lives of everyone in the Six Prophetic Cities.

Previously Reviewed: “There Will Come a Darkness” and “As the Shadow Rise”

Review: This has been a hugely popular series over the last year or so. While I didn’t actively dislike either of the books, I also could never quite figure out what the big deal was. Mostly, my inability to strongly connect to the characters is what held me back, an extremely subjective experience if there ever was one. But I did enjoy the second book more than the first, so I was happy enough to go into this, the final book in the trilogy.

Things are coming to a head. With a powerful god contained within her, Beru’s future is tenuous and fraught with danger, as she and the god can be wielded to terrible effect. For their part, the others are on a quest of their own, eager to find a way to hold their fraying world together. Anton, alone, knows what this same hard-fought success might cost them. But trials await in every form, both the physical challenges set before them and the emotional bonds that build, fray, and tighten between them all.

So, very like the second book, I did end up enjoying this book more than the first. I think most of it comes down to the characters I found myself most drawn to in the first book. For me, Hassan’s story was always fairly dull, and I didn’t connect very strongly to his storyline or character. So the first book, which featured him heavily, worked less well for me. But in these last two, he largely drifted into the background. Perhaps even more so in this book than in the second.

For the second part, there were characters who were barely introduced in the first book that I found in reading the second, and now the third, were a few of my favorites. Beru, for one, had very few chapters in that first book, but she’s always been a favorite of mine, so I enjoyed these last two books more for seeing more from her. Here, her story very much comes to the front. Containing a powerful god will do that for a character arc! I found her entire storyline over the three books to be very satisfying, and the resolution to her story was appropriately profound.

I also liked the romances that developed. Jude and Anton have been fairly precious since they were first hinted at as a pair in the end of the first book. But I admit, I’ve been more invested in the enemies-to-lover romance that develops between Ephyra and Illya. As Illya is only really introduced in book two and quickly joined Ephyra as one of my favorite characters, it only goes to show that these last two books had more of what I was looking for. I liked how both of these characters truly operate in shades of grey (sometimes outright black!). Many authors talk a decent game about writing morally grey characters or anti-heroes, but then when it comes down to it, any/all bad stuff is either off page or completely justified (like self defense, etc.) I appreciated that true darkness that was explored in both of these characters.

Overall, the trilogy definitely ended on a higher note than it started, and I’m glad I stuck it through until the end. Fans of the trilogy will surely be pleased, and if anyone’s been lukewarm on it so far, I still think this is a satisfying conclusion.

Rating 8: A trilogy that got better as it went along, I was happy to finish this one off on a high note.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Into the Dying Light” is on this Goodreads list: 2021 YA Books with LGBT Themes.

Find “Into the Dying Light” at your library using WorldCat!

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