The Girl in 6E (13 February 2014) by A.R. Torre
My reactions to this book went through a number of stages:
1 Read the blurb on NetGalley. Think it sounds interesting. Request it.
2. Google it. Find it was self-published (as, um, On Me In Me Dead Beneath Me - yes, really) a year ago, before being picked up by Hachette, given a new title, extended slightly and re-published. The new, improved version is already out for Kindle; the hardback is released in July. And it's going to be part of a series, or at least have a sequel. Decide it will probably be awful.
3. Start reading it. Get excited when it proves to have genuinely intriguing elements after all.
4. Reach the climax and ending and find it rather pedestrian.
5. Overall conclusion: it can't be called anything more than average as a whole; but it does have some really, really interesting aspects.
The titular 'girl in 6E' is Deanna Madden, alias Jessica Reilly, an internet-famous camgirl who hasn't left her apartment since she moved in, three years ago. She is also the sole survivor of a family massacre: when Deanna was 18, her mother murdered her younger brother and sister and then killed herself. (She's similar to the protagonist of Gillian Flynn's Dark Places, but instead of exploiting her fame as a victim, she's hidden herself away from the world, and uses her looks to make money - a lot of money - online.) The reason for her isolation isn't that she is afraid of going outside, it's that she's afraid of what she might do to other people if she comes into contact with them. She insists she's killed before, constantly fantasises about murder, and seems convinced she has inherited her mother's psychosis. A turning point comes when she identifies one of her clients as the possible abductor of a missing little girl, a discovery that prompts her to leave 6E for the first time.
For me, the most interesting thing about this story is that Torre has chosen to make her heroine a sex worker who is, in fact, a virgin. There's something really fascinating and unique about this, particularly since it could easily not have been the case: Deanna wasn't a child when she entered isolation, has clearly always been very attractive, and has no problems with self-confidence. The sex was among my favourite things about the book, because it's presented in such an unusual way. It's pretty explicit, but there are no traditional sex scenes since Deanna's only contact with her clients is of the virtual kind. For her, camming is both a business and an education; the narrative is peppered with scenes in which she describes some of her clients, their particular preferences and fantasies, and these are far more fascinating than the thriller/mystery side of the book (which, while reasonably well-executed, is nothing I haven't read a hundred times before). Then there's the fact that Deanna is a self-confessed psycho - how much can you really sympathise with her? Then again, how much of what she says can you believe - if she's really killed before, how did she get away with it? I've never watched Dexter or read any of the books, but from what I can gather she might be defined as a similar version of that character; she only kills 'bad' people, but her actual desire to kill runs much deeper than that. It'd be interesting (though unlikely) if future volumes had Deanna battling with her bloodlust in a more meaningful way than she gets to here.
But then there's the syrupy soppiness of the romance, which just doesn't sit with the themes of the rest of the book - all those psychotic tendencies and sexual perversion... it just feels weird. And the occasional clumsiness of the language which leads to the use of sentences such as '[I dropped] my book bag at the base of the stairs with a heavy thud of educational oppression'. Plus we have mutiple occurrences of my least favourite, most hated expression, 'off of'. 'His website made more than $1 million off of my chat sessions', 'I sit back, getting off of my knees' and so on. AAARGH. SOMEONE PLEASE ERADICATE 'OFF OF' FOREVER. I think it might even be worse than 'could of' and 'should of'. I know there is some debate over whether or not it's technically correct, but nevertheless I found it hard to believe those sentences made it past an editor (there are other, indisputable, errors in the narrative too. I can see how easily these could exist in a self-published novel, but I was reading the 'improved' version).
The Girl in 6E kind of reminded me of Sasha Grey's The Juliette Society, and not just because both books contain a lot of sex. It's similar in that it has so much promise that is never quite fulfilled - it's telling that I haven't felt compelled to discuss the crime at all in my review, as that's supposedly what the plot is all about. I can see why the book has attracted the attention of big-name publishers and, despite its origins, it's certainly as good as most big-selling thrillers and will appeal to fans of the darker side of the genre. It's a great concept, but the execution leaves a bit too much to be desired for it to be a true success.
I received an advance review copy of The Girl in 6E from the publisher through NetGalley.
Rating: 6/10 | Twitter | Goodreads | Booklikes | Bloglovin' | Buy on Amazon: Kindle & Hardback (pre-order)