Watching You by Lisa Jewell
Release Date: December 26, 2018
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪
My first five star read of 2019! This book surpassed my every expectation for so many reasons! There are a lot of moving parts diving into this storyline. It follows a web of neighbors: Tom, Nicola, and Freddie Fitzwilliam, Joey and her new husband Alfie, who live with Joey’s brother Jack and his pregnant wife Rebecca, and Jenna, a teenager around Freddie’s age, and her mother, who is struggling with an undiagnosed paranoia similar to schizophrenia. These three households seem to orbit around each other at the start of the book, simply existing in the same periphery. As we delve deeper into the plot, we discover the extent of the voyeurism in this neighborhood: everyone is watching everyone.
As Jewell slowly introduced each family unit, I was immediately aware of just how many main characters there were. Each one had pretty equal importance to the story, which I found unusual. I was initially concerned that I would lose track of who was who, but Jewell is a master at character development. Every single person was so different, so distinct and unique. From Freddie, with his social isolation and intense focus on his passion projects, (we find out very late in the book that he actually has Asperger’s), to Joey with her careless impulsiveness, and Jenna’s mom with her propensity for e-cigarettes and double checking the house for clues that her “stalkers” have visited in the night, there was no getting these individuals confused. I was honestly in awe of how well these characters were developed and thought through.
I’m not even sure where to start on a plot-level analysis. As a classic psychological thriller, the reader is led to believe one interpretation of the story, in this case, that Tom Fitzwilliam is the antagonist. He is the head teacher at a local school, and the implication is that he has a history of inappropriate behavior towards teenage girls. As an avid reader of thrillers, I was hesitant to accept this narrative, but I honestly couldn’t foresee any other conclusion. Until the last few chapters. One technical aspect of this book that I loved was the chapter length. Each chapter was only a few pages long, making the book incredibly hard for me to put down (in fact, I read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down). By the end of the text, the chapters were even shorter, often less than a single page. I think I had an actual adrenaline rush flipping through these.
The story is too large and has too many moving pieces to try to distill into a summarized review, but the plot twists were explosive, and every single character was somehow involved. The last quarter of the book included murder, suicide, physical abuse, a heartfelt father-son conversation, a heartfelt best-friend conversation, a cheap blue bra, and a confession, among other things… It was a lot, but it was never too much. It worked. AND. The very end of the book. When everything is over and wrapped up and I was skimming the afterward. It changed everything. The last few lines somehow threw a wrench in the already shocking conclusion I thought I was done with. I can’t heap enough praise on this book. Just go read it. In the meantime, I’ll be reading everything else Lisa Jewell has ever written, and eating these leftover cookies from last week (I didn’t have time to bake anything new because I was so wrapped up in this read! See my last blog post for the recipe.)