Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ruthless - Review

How far would you go to survive?

17 year old Ruth Carver wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pick-up truck with no idea where she is or how she got there. Taken to a cabin in the woods, she's plunged into her worst nightmare; she has been kidnapped and marked for death. Her captor is a deeply disturbed figure from the sidelines of her life on a mission to punish "bad girls" like Ruth, and she is to be his seventh victim. To have any hope of survival, she has to find out just how far she is willing to go, how ruthless she is willing to be.

Ruthless takes a rather simple premise - the hunter versus the hunted - and wrings every last drop of tension out of it. It's kind of hard to write the review without being spoiler-y, but I've kept any key plot points out of it! Opening with Ruth's abduction and diving straight into the action, the story is thrilling and suspenseful from start to (almost) finish. Carolyn Adams is a skilled writer who puts you right in the heart of the action. We're right there with Ruth from the get go. Every action, every decision, every justification she takes to preserve her own life, even against her better judgement, is described in perfect detail and Adams isn't afraid to delve into the psychology of survival which I love. I much prefer books to "go there" rather than gloss over the nitty gritty. Make no mistake, this book is surprisingly dark for something that seems to be marketing as YA and doesn't shy away from the reality of teenage girl being abducted and hunted by a serial killer. The sexual undertone to his crimes is kept relatively subtle, but it is still very much a part of his motivation.

Given that the story itself is a simple one, it falls to Adams to tell the story through Ruth's eyes. A pragmatic heroine, Ruth's steely determination and focus means that there's a tendency towards over description. The book is quite heavy with exposition in the beginning too, especially when crammed into Ruth's thoughts. It comes across as a little clunky at times, but with minimal dialogue and supporting characters kept off page for most of the novel, there doesn't seem to be much of away around this. The story begins to drag a little towards the end, meandering with it's character as Ruth always seems so close to escape, only to have it cruelly snatched away. I have to admit to being a little tempted to speed read a few times in the third quarter of the book (I didn't!).

But when the book lacks in action, it makes up for it in the kick-ass female lead category. What a fantastic character! Ruth is more than a little hard-faced with a hint of arrogance after years of holding her family together and being "the winner". Strong, resilient and determined to a fault, she makes no excuses for her flaws and her transition from determined competitor to hardened survivor is seamless. I have no idea what I'd do in such a horrific situation, but I think most of us would like to think we'd handle it like Ruth! Written in first person pov, we don't just see her going through the motions, we get inside her head. Her tormentor, the aptly named Wolfman, is similarly well-written, with a fleshed out back story told through flashbacks. Personally, I'd have preferred for these sections to be jettisoned entirely to keep me in Ruth's shoes. She doesn't know anymore about Wolfman than what he tells her, so why should we as the reader when the writing does such a good job of putting you right there Ruth? Just a personal preference I guess.

I enjoyed Ruthless, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced YA thriller that's not afraid to get its hands dirty. It's a little bit of a trial at times, but, much like its heroine, it's too good to be kept down.

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