The more I think about this book the more I don’t know what to think about it. At the same time, I have so many thoughts about this book I don’t know how to express all those thoughts without writing a whole essay, because this is the kind of book that I believe asks for critical thinking and analysis to get a solid understanding of what it’s saying and what it means.
I can say for certain though that this is the best book I’ve read/listened to in 2020 so far. Unfortunately, I’ve only read 13 due to Covid making it hard for me to concentrate and sleep. I can also say that this book made me cry a lot and feel a lot of things. I can’t say it gave me “all the feels,” because I didn’t feel the happiness and elation a romance novel would produce. But I loved how this book made me feel big emotions and think about it days after I’d finished reading it.
I liked the ambiguous ending. I don’t know if Alex or Elisha should be together, but I do think Alex won’t ever hurt Elisha again. I think Elisha should take as much time as he needs to be a full human being and fully self-aware. What he went through was so sad and heartbreaking, yet I also felt Alex’s angst. I do understand how trapped Alex felt, but I hated how Elisha had to suffer because of Alex’s cowardice.
So, yeah, I think Alex was a bit of a coward. He was addicted to his privilege and afraid of his father, who was the real villain in the story. In the end, Alex stood up and fought for Elisha, freeing himself at the same time. It was a win-win for him. He didn’t have as much to lose as he thought, and if he lost Elisha, he deserved it. He wasn’t impoverished and he wasn’t “imprisoned” or institutionalized, as he feared. He may have lost his job, but it wasn’t the end of the world for him, and he wasn’t broken the way he broke Elisha. I kinda hated that his voice was stronger than Elisha’s in the end, that he got the last word, because it meant that Elisha wasn’t completely free and wasn’t completely able to speak for himself. But I think that was the author’s point.
I really liked the freedom and joy Elisha felt when he was with Onyx and their uncomplicated friendship, though their relationship began in such a disturbing setting. This book contained moral ambiguity in a horrifyingly one-dimensional, regimented, oppressive world.
I feel so sad for Elisha, what happened to him and how he became, and hope he does regain complete self-autonomy and agency. The author did such a good job communicating what Elisha and Alex went through and how they felt that I couldn’t help but sympathize with both of them. Their love story was twisted, but their feelings were real. As much as Alex was a monster in the beginning and through much of the book, he became more aware of his complicity in the system which victimized both himself and Elisha. He did the right thing letting Elisha go and telling the truth in the trial. Whether or not he has earned or will earn Elisha’s love, whether or not they should be together is up to interpretation. I honestly keep going back and forth on this, which is one of the reasons I really like this book.
This book is like a horror story in some ways and could perhaps provide a lens through which we can view our own world and circumstances especially here in the United States during Covid. Where some Americans are forced to work in unsafe and life-threatening conditions just to survive, while others on the frontline are working in unsafe conditions due to poor public policy and a corrupt administration, whose only goal is to win re-election, stay in power, and enrich themselves, their donors, and their cronies.
Finally, I have to say, the audiobook narration completely sold the story to me and bumped my review up to 5 stars.