Genre: Realistic Fiction; Dark/Gritty; Contemporary; Psychological
“When Leroy mysteriously drowns in the river, the lives of three of his classmates – Darren, Joel and Grace – become inextricably linked.
Leroy was Joel’s only friend. He was also Grace’s twin brother. Bound together by their common grief, they become inseparable. Darren is a bully and narcissist, with no empathy or feelings of guilt. And Leroy was also Darren’s friend. He’s jealous of Grace and Joel’s relationship and plans to split them up. Both Joel and Grace have a crush on him and Darren easily tempts them into a secret relationship with him – Grace as his girlfriend (involving underage sex) and Joel as his partner-in-crime.
But their triangle of friendship is doomed to fracture under the weight of so much jealousy, lies and deceit. Revenge inevitably follows, and as Darren’s hedonism spirals out of control, the safety, happiness and goals of all three of them are under threat.
But one of them has the luck of the Devil.
And only one of them can emerge unscathed.”
Other books by Jane Bean I have reviewed:
“Tightening His Grip: The Main Man Trilogy Book 2”
Following the experiences of three friends after the loss of another, “His Willing Marionettes” details the convoluted nature of human relationships to an almost terrifying degree. The author draws her audience into a world where friendship isn’t straight-forward and a person’s morality isn’t so easy to know.
Although the book focuses on the experiences of three main characters, only one of them is written in first person while the others are written in third. I had a little trouble getting used to this format since each of their parts is given the same amount of attention. Then I realized that the reason Darren is presented in first person is not because he is any higher a character, but to outline his narcissistic personality.
Abuse, manipulation, death, murder, love, loss…this story hits all of these relentlessly hard. Now this isn’t to say there are no joyful moments in this book. There are times where the young characters, like real people, do find hope and comfort while learning about what is important in life. That being said, it’s definitely not an easy read due to how well it delves into the psyche of a narcissist and those unwittingly (however willing) caught in his grasp.
Personal note: While there is much contained that is deep in morbid ways and even triggering, there was one scene in particular that stood out to me. One of the side characters is revealed to be aquaphobic (fear of water). The reason behind it is revealed in what was almost a PTSD flashback as he recalls the childhood experience of being purposely held under water nearly to the point of drowning by his father.
Why this is particularly meaningful to me is because growing up, my older brother would do the same thing to me many times when we swam. I never developed a fear of water, but it was one of the many things that led to me being diagnosed with PTSD as an adult.
So in short, “His Willing Marionettes” is an intense story with an intense and detailed plot. I loved it, but would definitely recommend that those with triggers be prepared for the heavy content therein prior to reading.
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden