I’m pretty sure I spoil this book. Thing is, I’m not 100% sure I nailed the author’s intention, so I’m not hiding it behind a spoiler tag. Just read at your own risk. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments below.
I’m going to try to review this book without naming the book I was thinking about the entire time I was reading this one. Suffice it to say, OUR KIND OF CRUELTY is, without a doubt, its own book, and the antagonist is far less likeable than He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Throughout the entirety of OUR KIND OF CRUELTY I felt like an ass for questioning a certain character’s motives. Araminta Hall does a fantastic job of making the reader uncertain with regards to who to trust. Given the current political climate, and this world’s history of treating women like animals, I didn’t hesitate in considering that Verity could be as much at fault here as our unstable narrator. Gillian Flynn has made a career of writing about vile women, and I thought that’s what I was reading here. It wasn’t until the final pages (and the author’s note at the end of the book) that I began to hate myself for ever questioning the author’s intent.
OUR KIND OF CRUELTY deals with victim-blaming in a brutally-honest, realistic way, so much so that I was considering that the victim might have actually had something to do with the crime. It is a testament to how topical this book is that it made me take a closer look at myself, someone who would never consider blaming the victim in a situation like this, considering the possibility that the victim could be to blame. In this case, anyway. I’m so used to rooting for the bad guy in books like this that I never once considered the possibility that the bad guy was an unforgivable monster. He certainly was not relatable, or even likeable, but that was the author’s intention. He’s supposed to be a monster, from beginning to end, and the fact that I questioned his role says so much about the state of modern psychological thrillers.
We’ve grown to worship shitty human beings. We’ve come to romanticize bad men. This book takes a hard look at the victim, and asks you to see them, to believe them. Hall trusts you to make the right decision, and I almost didn’t, because this isn’t YOU, by Caroline Kepnes, and this crazy motherfucker is definitely not Joe Goldberg.
Fuck. I just failed, didn’t I? Gahdameet!
In summation: OUR KIND OF CRUELTY will be compared to YOU until the end of days, but it truly does stand stunningly well on its own. Hall has created a puzzle that is only a puzzle because of where we are as a society. She turns a mirror on us, those who hero-worship characters like Joe Goldberg, and asks us to take a long hard look at ourselves. I, for one, didn’t like what I saw, but that doesn’t make me like Joe Goldberg any less. Odd how that works.
Final Judgment: Buy it for the amazing cover, read it for the brutally-honest social commentary.