Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Review: 'Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls' by Lucy Corin

One of the first things that drew me in about this book was its rather interesting title. You don't often see a book about "psychokillers" advertised for girls. And then the synopsis was enough to set my mind upon reading it. And I found myself inexorably pulled into the novel, unable to put it down and strangely fascinated.
In Everyday Psychokillers violence is the subject of everyday life: a disturbing extravaganza in which all those around the narrator seem to become participants, willingly or not. And at its center are the interchangeable young girls, mostly thrilled to know themselves the object of so much desire and terror.
The narrative interweaves history, myth, rumor, and news with the experiences of a young girl living in the flatness of South Florida. Like Grace Paley's narrators, she is pensive and eager, hungry for experience but restrained. Into the sphere of her regard come a Ted Bundy reject, the God Osiris, a Caribbean slave turned pirate, a circus performer living in a box, broken horses, a Seminole chief in a swamp, and a murderous babysitter. What these preposterously commonplace figures all know is that murder is identity: "Of course what matters really is the psychokiller, what he's done, what he threatens to do. Of course to be the lucky one you have to be abducted in the first place. Without him, you wouldn't exist."
Everyday Psychokillers reaches to the edge of the psychoanalytical and jolts the reader back to daily life. The reader becomes the killer, the watcher, the person on the verge, hiding behind an everyday face. 
The narration of this novel is definitely one of its major advantages. It stays very true to its protagonist, who is never named, as she looks back on her life. Corin manages to capture the tone of a teenager who is sometimes strangely dismissive, obsessively interested and too dependent on others. She jumps from one experience to the other, which at times leaves the book feeling a little bit disjointed, but overall gives a good impression of life. Corin really shows how much of our lives depends on our contact with others, how they influence our lives and how sometimes they simply don't leave a mark. One of the most interesting things was Corin's attention to everyone's worry that they are different, or wrong. Is it bad that we are obsessed with our high-school friends and want to claim them for ourselves, thereby taking them away from others? And isn't that exclusivity of experience exactly what psychopaths are after?

As the synopsis states, the reader becomes the observer, the one who is hiding behind the bushes as peeking into the lives of others. You want to take the characters away and ask them more questions, figure them out. Corin fills her book with fascinating characters, all of which seemed to be bound together by the extremities of their life. She really questions the pretense many people throw up that our life nowadays is protected from all danger, that our children are safe and remain untouched by the bad in the world. The fact that all the danger in the world comes from the people right next to us means that everyone encounters criminals, potential psychopaths and victims every day and most of the time nothing happens. We might even be those criminals or victims ourselves, sometimes without knowing it. Everyday Psychokillers throws up a lot of thoughts, many of which Corin leaves only partially-answered so the reader has something to figure out after finishing this book.

Corin's writing style keeps you on the edge of your seat. That is an over-used phrase if there ever was one, but it definitely applies to Everyday Psychokillers, not least of all because you're constantly wondering when it will all go wrong. How many encounters with danger can one person have before it all combusts? Without spoiling anything it can be said that the end is something you will not see coming and the way Corin leads up to it is very intriguing. I said in a review for a different book that I want to be challenged by what I read, want be forced to think and question and doubt, and Everyday Psychokillers definitely managed to get me thinking. Throughout all of her questioning, Corin never forgets to just tell the story of a girl growing up. There is the sense that while being strangely abstract this novel is still very close to home and I think it gets most of its strength from that.

I give this novel...

4 Universes.

This novel does come with a warning, violence can be found in almost every chapter. However, it is never gratuitous or pointless and it serves its purpose. Corin writes this novel with a lot of passion and it infects the reader. If Everyday Psychokillers takes hold of you it will set you thinking and make you wonder. But it has to be your cup of tea.

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