Before we begin, this is first of my book reviews. I will write a review every time I finish a book. If you want to see what I’m reading right now or any book I’ve already read this year, please look to the right-hand side of the screen where there is a book list. There are however, no other book reviews, as this is the first. I’d also like to just mention that every time I use an example I have found them in the novel – in this case ‘The Killables’ by Gemma Malley.
A Spoiler Free Bit About the Book
This morning I finished Gemma Malley’s ‘The Killables’, a teenage fiction novel set in dystopian London which is called the City which is run by the Brother. In the City evil has been eradicated by the removal of the amygdala – the part of the brain the people of the City believe evil lives – in a procedure called the New Baptism. Everyone has a label from A to D which indicates your ‘goodness’ level, I suppose. ‘A’ being that there is no evil in you whatsoever and ‘D’ being ‘deviant’ or one to watch. The D’s are despised by others in their community and suspected of evil. If worse comes to worse and the System believes your amygdala is growing back and you have the capacity for evil you are labelled a ‘K’. The K’s are sent off to be reconditioned and have a second New Baptism. But the K’s are never seen again.
The novel follows a teenager called Evie. I believe she’s sixteen or seventeen. She works for the System changing people’s labels. Evie believes that she may have the capacity for evil as the world she lives in has made her anxious and timid (or that’s how I read into it). Evie worries that she isn’t like everyone else (as we all do at some point in our lives).
I must say, I struggled throughout ‘The Killables’ to connect with Evie, the protagonist, but also most of the main characters. I sympathised with them at points but it wasn’t enough and I at last began to like Evie at the very end of the novel. I was tempted many times to put it down and not finish it because I’m a character girl. I like character driven novels vs plot driven novels and I felt this was a plot driven novel.
What kept me hanging on was the plot itself. I loved the whole concept. I’ve read many dystopian novels (I love them) but I loved that this one was different, which isn’t that easy to find. So I stuck around for the plot, the characters annoying me all the way, which I found very odd. I’m not saying the character development was bad or that they were unrealistic, not at all. I just couldn’t identify with them and in their situation would’ve made very different decisions. Sometimes characters’ decision making drives me crazy (if you’ve ever read the ‘Hush, Hush’ trilogy or ‘The Immortals Series’ you’ll know what I mean). ‘The Killables’ made me feel like this at times.
Another issue I had was Gemma Malley’s writing style. Again, I’m not saying it’s bad and that she’s a bad author because she isn’t by any standards. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was more like she’d offered me black coffee with sugar and I’d drank it to the bottom when I really wanted white tea without sugar.
First of all, it’s written in the third person (for those of you unaware, the third person is saying: “Evie’s heart thudded”, almost like there is an omnipotent narrator telling the story whereas the first person is saying: “My heart thudded”, where the protagonist is telling the story themselves). Third person makes me feel distant. It’s just a personal feeling and a taste and I think it’s why I had a hard time connecting with Evie – because I felt we really were living in different worlds whereas when I read first person I feel like I’m there with them. Before you get any ideas, I’m not saying I hate the third person – may I remind you that Harry Potter is written in the third person. I’d just always pick the first person if given a choice. I guess having written in nothing but the first person for four years can’t have helped either.
What really irritated me, like a fly buzzing around your ear but you just can’t catch it, was Malley’s incessant use of adverbs. If you haven’t read my previous posts you won’t know about my hatred for adverbs (which are words describing a verb such as “she reddened awkwardly”, awkwardly being the adverb). I can’t stand them at all, but in my mind to use them in a novel is a writing sin. Malley either doesn’t know this or disagrees because ‘The Killables’ is just littered with adverbs. In more than one instance I found that double adverbs had been used. Two next to each other! Like using one wasn’t bad enough. I tried to look for an example but the book’s 370 pages long so no luck. Instead I found an example of what I mean when I scream about my adverb loathing. “He stared at Linus uncomprehendingly”. There must have been a better word for Malley to use. “Uncomprehendingly” almost sounds like a made up word. Another example I found was “Evie said loudly”. Is it just me, or would “Evie said, raising her voice” sound better? Or even “Evie yelled”, “Evie shouted” or “Evie called”. The word “loudly” adds nothing you can’t get through other and much better words. Adverbs, throughout the novel, take away from the connection to the characters and add to the readers’ distance felt between them and also slow down the plot. Adverb rant over, I promise.
Plot Idea – 9/10 – I loved the plot itself and the idea of the City and the problems that came with it.
Way Plot was Pursued – 6/10 – at various points I found the storytelling just a little too odd for my liking. Also, I thought there was too much detail at the very beginning which made it seem slow to start.
Characters – 2/10 – I understood them but I didn’t like them or care about them. I wouldn’t want to follow them to the end of the novel.
Style – 1/10 – adverbs, adverbs, adverbs, plus third person distance.
Pace – 8/10 – for the second half of the novel I thought the pace was perfect. However at the beginning the plot was slow, it didn’t last too long, but I still had to endure it.
Would I recommend it? - I would if I believed you would enjoy this type of story and if you’re not all hung up on adverbs like me. So yes.
Would I look up the author? - I know she’s written other novels that have received lots of praise, but I would not. This is just because she doesn’t write in my preferred style. No.
All in all, ‘The Killables’ wasn’t a bad novel; it was even a good novel in places. It was a novel I had my problems with and that’s that.
If you’ve read ‘The Killables’ I’d love to know what you thought. I’m always available for book chatter.
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