By Abbey Howard
Hello, dear reader, and welcome to the inaugural Novel & Nostalgia! My name is Abbey, and this column will be alternating between me exploring new titles and (nervously) rereading old favorites to see if I still enjoy them. I’m excited to finally have an excuse to squeeze more reading into my schedule!
Since I know that I prefer reading reviews from people with similar tastes to mine, here’s a little about my reading tastes: I gravitate toward fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, and the occasional mystery/thriller. The majority of what I read is young adult, but I do dabble in adult titles as well, so you can expect to see a healthy mix.
This week we’re tackling the “novel” part of Novel & Nostalgia, and the novel I chose is None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney, a young adult psychological thriller whose cover and premise are both perfectly fitting for a spooky season. In this and every review that follows, I’ll be separating my thoughts into a spoiler-free review and spoiler-filled ramble, so fear not! I hate when I get spoiled, so I don’t want to do that to you. Read my spoiler-free thoughts, and if you do decide to pick up None Shall Sleep, come back after you’ve read it to see if you agree with any of my spoiler-y opinions.
In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But, while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.
Captivating, harrowing, and chilling, None Shall Sleep is an all-too-timely exploration of not only the monsters that live among us, but also the monsters that live inside us.
(Taken from goodreads.com)
Marney’s writing is the first element that pulled me in when I began reading, it mimics the stern succinctness of a classic crime procedural, which made the story easy to follow yet immersive. Our main serial killers, the Artist and the Butcher, are unnerving and convincing, and I appreciated that this book could elicit those feelings from me, as I consume a good amount of true crime media. However, at times the succinctness made me feel like I was being rushed to the finish line. This didn’t annoy me so much as it made me wish for more time and insight into the main characters.
Speaking of, Emma and Travis both have past traumas that play heavily into their work with the FBI. Having to repeatedly cross paths with young serial killers is clearly hard on both of them, but they have their friendship and determination to help solve an active case to fall back on when the going gets tough. And the going does get tough! I appreciated the friendship they forged while working together, their mutual trust and partnership is the key to their success, so to speak. And while I’m not sure the FBI would ever actually bring in teenagers to interview killers, even back in the 80s, this premise was still fun to imagine.
Emma and Travis may be the main characters, but Edmund Cooper, federal agent, and Simon Gutmunsson, teenage murderer and sociopath, stole the show for me. Cooper has a gruff demeanor and no-nonsense speech pattern, but it’s clear that he cares for and believes in Emma and Travis. Simon, on the other hand, is so over the top with his love of academia and fancy things, that his murderous underbelly is all the more unnerving. Nevertheless, his scenes with Emma are some of my favorite out of the whole book.
To avoid giving away any major plot points, I’ll just say that the stakes are high and the consequences are bloody in None Shall Sleep, and it was all-around enjoyable to read. If you are thinking of picking this title up, please be aware that there are descriptions of mildly graphic crime scenes and other mentions of violence, as I know that can be a turn-off to some people. There’s nothing too extreme, but I thought it worth mentioning.
My final rating: ★★★★☆
Spoilers ahead! You have been warned!
No, really! Major plot points are being spoiled!
Okay, so I don’t have as many spoilers to mention for None Shall Sleep as I’ll have for some of the nostalgia titles I’m planning to review, but there are a few things that I want to get off my chest.
First, I really wish the ending wasn’t quite so abrupt! I will admit, it fits with the story, but I prefer endings with more closure, so this is a me problem, not a plot issue.
I absolutely should’ve seen Cooper getting killed by the Butcher coming – it feels like all tough-love, yet supportive mentors get killed off in stories like these – but I didn’t, so it was upsetting to say the least! The grief in the wake of his death added a little something to the rapidly rising stakes that I enjoyed, despite the fact that it was one of my favorite characters who got the (metaphorical) axe.
Let me count the ways in which I’m thankful to Marney for not writing in a romance between Emma and Travis! Sure, there was some mutual attraction, but had they actually acted on their attraction it would’ve felt so forced, given they were both so focused on their jobs from start to finish.
To round out these spoilers, I’d just like to mention that I would read an Emma Lewis prequel all day long! The flashbacks to her time in the clutches of a serial killer were some of my favorite bits, and though I have no idea whether Marney would ever consider writing this, I could see it being just as good, if not better than, None Shall Sleep.
Okay, that’s all for the spoilers!
What’s Up Next:
The next installment of Novel & Nostalgia will be focused on a nostalgic book that I knew had to be the first old favorite I reread, as I loved everything about it when I read it five or so years ago, but I’ve been afraid to revisit it since. I’m not sure what I’ll do if this reread makes me reevaluate my feelings for this novel! Here’s a hint as to what I’ll be writing about: a circus that only comes at night. I hope you’ll join me again, and until then, happy reading!