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The Watcher GirlThe Watcher Girl by Minka Kent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was tough to choose a star rating on this book. First off I’ll say that I did enjoy reading it, mostly because the main character, Grace, has a really good, strong voice that never wavered in its cynicism, strength, and straightforward nature. I also liked that the author spared us unnecessary details and really just got down to brass tacks, which kept the pacing fast. Those two things count for a lot with me. I also loved the concept of Grace being an internet scrubber with lots of experience on the dark web that impact her ability to trust and feel safe.

I didn’t pick up this book because I read the premise and liked it; I picked up this book because it was the best option in Prime reads. The premise, in my opinion, is flawed. The idea is that Grace finds out her ex-boyfriend, Sutton, is married to someone who looks like her, he lives with his family in Grace’s hometown, and his child is named Grace. Sounds obsessive, right? So she decides to go back home so she can “rectify what I’ve done. I need to apologize for hurting him. Explain my reasons. Give him permissions to move on, be happy.” The problem here is that Grace is intelligent, savvy, cynical, and has experience with her internet scraping job that has proven to her that you never know who someone really is. She’s convinced Sutton was a good guy, so she can help him by apologizing to him and giving him closure (even though she actually did tell him the reason she was leaving when she left him), but anyone knows approaching someone who’s obsessed with you is an enormous mistake that can only cause the situation to worsen. Obsession is dangerous, and you don’t have to have a psychology degree to know it. It’s been the subject of movies, TV shows, fiction, nonfiction—Grace would have to be extremely naive to think it’s a good idea to approach someone obsessed with her, and she’d have to drop all the knowledge and jadedness she’s gained over the years to think she knows anyone well enough to be sure of who they really are. But she does it anyway, even though her personality doesn’t suit that choice.

Another problem I had was that you could remove all the family drama from this book and still have the same plot, losing nothing. The family subplot wasn’t woven into the main plot, which focuses on Sutton and his wife, Campbell, so that ended up minimizing the suspense and interest in those parts. They were more for character development, but they didn’t really suit the book or the genre in my opinion (closer to women’s fiction), which was supposed to be thriller. That brings me to my next point.

This book is labeled as a thriller, but it doesn’t qualify as that genre for the most part. There are little bits that qualify, and it heavily qualifies at the 80% mark. A thriller is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense.” And according to Masterclass, “Thrillers are dark, engrossing, and suspenseful plot-driven stories. They very seldom include comedic elements. Any novel can generate excitement, suspense, interest, and exhilaration, but because these are the primary goals of the thriller genre, thriller writers have laser-focused expertise in keeping a reader interested.” I can’t say either of these definitions fit this book. There were many patches of the book that were interesting but not suspenseful or that were vaguely interesting but only to a degree; most of those had to do with the family parts that could have been removed from the story without losing anything.

I also found the book pretty predictable. I knew what Campbell’s game was early on—it wasn’t buried well enough by the author, and I was right about it. I also knew what was going on with Sutton during the climax of the book. I didn’t find any surprises save for one, and that was just one small part of the execution of the climax. During the climax, I was able to predict about 90% of it. Part of that is because this book is written in first-person, so of course Grace can’t die or the book would end. So that outcome is not even a possibility, eliminating much of the suspense of the climax. Then, while Grace couldn’t understand what Sutton had done, I had it all figured out…WELL before her.

It was hard to enjoy the big reveals at the end because they were pretty much a Q&A between Sutton and Grace. I can only call it a Q&A because it didn’t read as a natural conversation to me…it’s mostly just question, answer, question, answer. A pretty blunt Q&A with little to disguise it, very much like in an RPG game when an NPC gives you a list of questions to choose from. You click on the question, they answer, rinse, and repeat. I’m aware, though, that this tends to be an accepted form of answering reader questions at the end of a book, so I didn’t take off a star for that. It was just noticeable enough for me to mention.

There are a lot of ways this book could have been improved, a lot of opportunities to weave in a good, solid subplot(s) that would have complicated the main storyline, and there were many existing options at the author’s fingertips. Instead, much of what would normally be used in a thriller to up the ante and create a crescendo of suspense fell flat.

Still, as I said, I did truly enjoy the main character’s personality and the Deep POV the author created. I was at least interested enough to finish it out, mostly because of Grace and the hope that suddenly the subplots would pick up, tie into the main plot, and really get going with the thriller element.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this particular book, at least not as a thriller. It’s closer to domestic suspense, but with all the unused opportunities, I’m not totally sure it fits that either. I’ve read much more enticing, exciting domestic suspense. I’d give this author another try with a different book though.

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