Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw — 304 pgs


Book CoverOne morning as Luke is playing in the playground, he befriends another boy who he quickly identifies as Daniel. Daniel soon realizes that he has no memories before coming in contact with Luke and follows him home to become part of his life. But the other people surrounding Luke can't or don't see Daniel, and before long he realizes that he is, in fact, an imaginary part of the boy's consciousness. Living with his sometimes psychotic mother who has just gone through a messy divorce, Luke is far from being well-adjusted and Daniel becomes Luke's confidant and companion. But Daniel is not benign, and when Luke begins to spend time away from him, Daniel grows jealous and calculating, goading Luke into doing terrible things that soon have his mother seeking professional help for him. Soon Daniel is bottled up in Luke's consciousness and Luke is free to live his life. But underneath it all, Daniel is waiting for his opportunity to escape and wreak havoc once again. Discovering that he himself becomes stronger when Luke grows weaker, Daniel works this angle and continually seeks to keep Luke off balance, both emotionally and psychically, until the day that he can take over Luke's life as his own. Both dark and twisted, In This Way I Was Saved packs a psychological punch that will keep readers on the edge of their seats, asking themselves just what is real and what is not.

I have to say that although I loved the idea and premise of this book, the actuality started to go downhill for me rather quickly. There was a great potential for this to be a seriously creepy and disturbing book, and although there were flashes of dark brilliance in it, I felt that the author pulled a lot of punches and lost his footing in a number of ways. There were some really creepy and nightmare-inducing factors in this story, but it felt almost as if the author didn't go all the way with them and a lot of the supposed dark drama of the book really had much less of an impact than I would have liked.

It was never really clear to me while reading whether Daniel was some kind of horrifying imaginary friend, whether he was a part of Luke that remained hidden under the facade of everyday normality, or whether he was indeed a ghost. There was contradictory evidence for each of these scenarios, and the further I got into the book, the more these ideas clashed with each other, making a lot of this story unravel for me. At times Luke does things that Daniel makes him do, indicating that he was more of an influence on Luke rather than a part of him. But at other times it's as if Daniel is moving through Luke and doing things that he would not normally want to do, making me believe that Daniel was a facet of Luke that he tried to keep well hidden. Don't even get me started about the times Daniel does things independently of Luke; things that Luke is not even involved with. This was all confusing to me and didn't make much sense in terms of the story that DeLeeuw was trying to tell. It's one thing to suspend your sense of disbelief while reading a story like this but quite another to have the terms constantly changed within and amongst this imaginary environment and its players. Is it a story of the emergence of mental illness or a ghost story? This is one of the things that never became clear.

Another thing that bothered me was that a lot of it seemed very plebeian and mismatched. I just didn't understand why there were some scenes of intense horror and macabre mixed in with other rather ordinary accounts of teen sexuality, drug use and domestic drama. It felt off, and I think it made for a very uneven story. Towards the beginning of the book, there was a scene that I can only describe as horrifically penetrating, and after reading it, I came to expect that a certain level of creepiness would continue to permeate the book. But abruptly, it became a different kind of story filled with rather common elements and concerns that I grew rather bored with. I had thought that Daniel was supposed to be a dark and foreboding character constantly on the fringes of Luke's psyche. So why was he trying to feel up girls at a party and playing cruel jokes on Luke's mother? I just didn't get it. There was a sense that this story got away from its author, and that significant plot points were rather mismanaged, making for a story that was sometimes bizarre and sometimes confusing.

There was a whole subplot involving the mystery publishing house that Luke's mother owned and one of the tales they published about a doppelganger. I would have really liked to see more of this part of the story or for it to have had a little more focus in the narrative. I could see that DeLeeuw was trying to coalesce this part of the story into the story of Daniel, but this section was given short shrift and it didn't really fit in with what the story had become. Had this subplot turned in another direction and been more closely related to what was going on between Daniel and Luke, it might have ended up being a better read for me. Part of the reason the book wasn't more interesting to me was the fact that the things that went on between Luke and Daniel were never fully explained or defined. Maybe there was a subtle subtext that I was missing, but I don't really think so.

As the ending of the story was fully foreshadowed in the first few pages of the book, it wasn't at all a surprise for me, which bothered me as well. There was no mystery here, and since I knew how it was all going to wrap up anyway, I was hesitant to even read it through to the end. I'm not sure why the author chose to do things this way, but I, for one, didn't exactly feel like it was the best way the story could have been managed. The last few pages were particularly mind-boggling, as now the book had taken on a new shape that didn't fit within the world the author had created. The story of just what Daniel was, was constantly morphing, and I felt that if the author had just picked one path and stayed with it, it would have ended up being a much more affecting read.

Although I didn't end up enjoying this book, I do believe that others out there who are not quite as picky as I am regarding these kids of stories might find this book a little more interesting than I did. DeLeeuw had a rather unique way of constructing his tale and I would be interested in seeing more of his work, not only as a comparison to this book but also as a way to see what other ideas he has up his sleeve. Overall a perplexing book.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

15 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This does sound somewhat bizarre. I guess Daniel is supposed to symbolize some type of mental illness? I think I'll skip the book.

Marie said...

I don't think this would be my cup of tea, either! better luck next time.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Oh, what a shame -- it's sad to see a good premise go awry. You're right, too -- it sounds like an opportunity for a truly creepy and disturbing book, but it just fell down. :(

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm reading your synopsis and thinking "yes! this is my kind of story!". But when you introduce a mysterious presence, I think most readers are going to want to know eventually what it is. Even if it is supernatural, at least there is an answer. I think I would find myself confused as well. (Granted, The Little Stranger had some of these aspects, but for some reason that didn't bother me, because I love Waters.)

Sandy Nawrot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nymeth said...

Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this! It sounds like a lot of story elements were there just for shock value, and that doesn't tend to work for me either.

Suko said...

When I first started reading your review, I thought it must be a book about someone with a split personality (or someone coming to terms with the aggressive side of himself). I think I would have been frustrated the whole time reading this book, not really knowing what was going on.

Wonderful, in-depth review, Zibilee, as usual.

Jenny said...

Hmmm... it definitely sounded like a great premise when I first started reading your review! I could see where it would be a difficult book to write, but it's a shame maybe more time or editing was taken into account for those discrepancies. When you first started talking about it it did sound like a mental illness (um, schizophrenia??) but then if the friend is doing things completely separate from Luke that doesn't make sense either! How disappointing! Those discrepancies would bother me too. =(

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Oh No...I recently got this book from a PBS member. Thought it sounded interesting. I'll be sure to share my thoughts once I read it.

Jenners said...

Oh man!!! The premise sounds fantastic!! I hate when a book with such a good idea stumbles and falls down. I was getting all excited when I was reading the description. Then when I read your thoughts, I was like "Oooohhh noooooo." Ergh. I hate when this happens.

Amy said...

Oh no, sorry to hear this one was so bad for you. It sounds like it has potential, but just didn't live up to it. I will avoid - thank you!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Rats, I was so excited by your first paragraph! But blech, it sounds like it was written by committee.

Jules said...

The premise of the book sounds interesting, it sounds like it deals with mental illness and how it effects a person. It almost sounds like Daniel is a voice or demon in the head of the main character. But him acting out on his own, and things being missmatched make me second guess that. Unless the author was being metaphorical or something, and showing some unique angle of mental illness and how it influences the mind and how a person is affected by it.

I was set to read the book by it's description, but after your review, I think I'd have a lot of the same issues with it as you did. Thanks for sharing.

Vasilly said...

This sounds really interesting but there so many flaws, I'll probably skip it.Hopefully the author's next book is better.

Anonymous said...

#Read the book before you write it off - I thought it was fantastic, compelling, thought-provoking. You don't need to have the author give you all the answers - the pleasure is in working them out for yourself.

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