I had hopes for The Captives, by Debra Jo Immergut. Somewhere I read that it was quality prose in a thriller genre. Turns out the prose is okay, nothing spectacular (why use question marks in dialog for one character and not for the reply which is also a question?) and the story? Disappointing.
It opens with promise; setting us in the grown up view of a high school crush and after a bit of foreshadowing in first person, goes to the crush’s POV in third person. It continues to alternate each chapter, which isn’t a problem, but within those jumps back and forth we constantly flip into backstory from all manner of points in time and with a slew of characters, most of which appear in the current timeline. A barrage of short vignettes mixed with short snippets of the current timeline designed to give the reader needed backstory to understand the two characters’ history but so short and so frequent that, were I wanting to seem mean I might warn the reader of potential whiplash.
The jumping back and forth contribute to this reader’s inability to believe much of the backstory as consistent with the current versions of the characters. Rather than an exploration of the characters’ history these backstories feel like justifications that were concocted later, in the same manner that a crime writer might concoct character history to justify the monster that the perpetrator became. Or maybe it’s the vignettes’ brevity and frequency that makes them seem tacked on.
I suppose my credibility when it comes to criticizing the ending is limited since I only skimmed the last half of the book to see what happens but the ending didn’t make much psychological sense to me.