When Gillian Flynn recommends that The Next Time You See Me, by Holly Goddard Jones, is an "astoundingly good novel," I know I have to read it. Many of you know just how much I love the dark and twisted writings of Gillian Flynn, especially Gone Girl.
There are so many incredible things quietly and eerily happening through Holly Goddard Jones' debut novel. It's a story filled with the loneliest of people in a small town in Kentucky, and when hard-partying Ronnie goes missing, her sister, Susanna, is the only one who notices and cares. While the rest of the town struggles through their own deep secrets and insecurities, Susanna worries for her sister, her husband, daughter, and the feeling of missing out on life. As Tony Joyce, prior potential major league ballplayer and crush for Susanna, now detective, becomes involved in her missing sister's case, the intensity of the search builds and each person becomes crucial to the town itself and not just to the disturbing details of Ronnie and where she may be, or what may have happened to her. In fact, in truly dark and twisted fashion, the author depicts Roma, Kentucky as almost its own personality, a bruise on the state with its dismal factories and lost dreams.
The Next Time You See Me is incredibly well written. It is engaging in its sadness, the quiet tales of each character's misery or resentment or the feeling of missing out on life itself are all deeply felt by the reader. Probably the most disturbing sections were not just the complete dejection of Wyatt and lost love, but the teenagers in the middle school who Susanna teaches. Emily and Christopher, each on opposite sides of the spectrum of popularity, simultaneously deal with their own internal tortures and confusion, but Christopher's bullying of Emily is disgusting, perhaps drawn out by the evil figurehead of popularity which can be its own evil beast. Christopher is almost incapable to believe his own confidence and choose to go the opposite way from his girlfriend and friends, and not hurt others. Peer pressure is a dirty thing, and Christopher is not just the leader of it, but a victim to it as well. With the many secrets Emily keeps however, one could almost understand why she is shunned by the larger part of society, which also peel back the layers of why it hurts so badly when she is tormented; the question a reader might ask themselves is "Would I think she was weird, too?" It's not fair, and it's a dark part of "humanity" that is questioned. Perhaps you won't like what you see of yourself.
A common theme throughout is bullying. While it's much more pronounced and currently relevant when represented in Emily's character, it's also portrayed in adulthood with Wyatt and Sam. The book could almost be a dire predicament of what could happen if bullying goes unchecked, no matter what age.
The Next Time You See Me is a quiet and brutally honest story, one that keeps you flipping the pages. If I could have sat uninterrupted for an afternoon, I easily could have finished it in one sitting. Needless to say, it was a book I always took with me on errands: in doctors' offices, nail appointments, waiting in the car to pick people up, and more. I highly recommend this to anyone, especially those who enjoy Gillian Flynn and Chevy Stevens.
Publisher: Touchstone (a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
Release Date: 2/12/2013
FTC Disclosure: I received a finished copy from the publisher for my honest review.
About the Author
Holly Goddard Jones is the author of the short story collection Girl Trouble. Her work has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the South, Tin House magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2013 recipient of The Fellowship of Southern Writers' Hillsdale Award for Fiction and a 2007 recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She teaches in the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Brandon, and two rowdy dogs. The Next Time You See Me is her first published novel.
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