The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

A copy of The Deviants was kindly sent to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

My heart is shattered after reading The Deviants; don’t let the synopsis fool you, it is so much more than a story of five friends reuniting and getting revenge on those who have wronged them. Secrets, lies, revenge, abuse, and the mother of all twists – this book should have come with a disclaimer about just how dark and traumatising it was going to become (I’ll warn you now it deals quite heavily with sexual abuse and rape, and will make you rage and feel all the uncomfortable feelings).

The premise tells us that it is a story of five childhood friends in a sleepy seaside town in England – Ella, Max, Fallon, Corey and Zane, who drifted apart after the death of Max’s older sister, Jessica. Only Ella and Max are still friends, and in a long-term relationship. A bullying incident with Corey ends up reuniting them in unexpected ways, and then the story becomes murkier. It leaves the realm of a fairly average YA story of the awkward teenage years and enters into darkness, anger, and destruction. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too sold on the story in the very beginning – the writing could be clunky in places, due to the narrator being seventeen I think, and Ella and Max’s relationship was a dull starting point – but I was soon enthralled by the story and wrapped up in the mysteries and secrets that soon started emerging. Power through the first few chapters if you’re not sure how you feel about the story, it’s worth it.

The characters in this story are wonderful – they are so well crafted and develop beautifully throughout the story. Initially I didn’t think I’d like many of them, especially Ella, Max, and Zane, and I was very surprised to find that I cared about, and was interested in, each of them by the end. The story is told through Ella’s perspective but the other characters all have a clear and distinct voice – you can see how trauma and growing up would have caused them to separate, but I’m glad that circumstance brought them back together.

Ella is the driving force behind the ‘Fearless Five’ reuniting and enacting revenge – driven by her own personal demons – and even though I didn’t agree with the way she dealt with her problems a lot of the time, I could understand why she did the things she did and think that she was an incredibly brave character. The other characters are much the same – they all have their own issues and certain things that set them apart and mark them as ‘other’: Max’s dad is a businessman who is incredibly rich and basically owns half the town, Fallon is the strange but lovely daughter of a woman who everyone believes is a witch, Corey is a disabled orphan (and he’s adorable!), and Zane is a bullying thug struggling with his feelings. They create a wonderfully diverse set of characters to read about and I was riveted by their lives and friendship.

This is a very compulsive story, with its fast-paced and relentless tension and what ifs, but it is also incredibly uncomfortable to read, full of anger and grief – I imagine that’s what makes it so enthralling. It’s an incredibly clever story that slowly builds tension until it explodes into a completely unexpected ending that will leave you both satisfied and annoyed. Definitely recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Read: September 12th 2016

4/5 stars

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