“The dysfunctional, unreliable heroines of Girl on a Train and The Woman in the Window have a new sister-in-arms: Eliza Fontaine, protagonist of this adult novel by the author of the YA juggernaut Pretty Little Liars.”
“A book you won’t be able to leave sitting on the nightstand for long.”
When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.
Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?
The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.
“A story blending Hitchcock, S.J. Watson, and Ruth Ware.”
“Buckle up Pretty Little Liars fans, because author Sara Shepard is here with her first adult novel, and it is sizzling.”
“An eerie tale of manipulation, inception, and betrayal that will leave readers questioning their own memories—and reality.”
—Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly
“This is spring-break reading at its finest.”
—Town & Country
“Highly recommended for fans of eventually justified ‘paranoid woman’ characters who descend in a direct line from Charlotte Brontë to Ruth Ware.”
—Booklist (starred review)
I rarely rate a book below three stars, perhaps because I inwardly appreciate the laborious work the author has put into crafting the story regardless of my positive or less positive opinion of it. At already a quarter of the way through Sara Shepard’s newest publication, I was unimpressed and slightly annoyed at the double storyline, especially that featuring Dot as the protagonist. Structurally, The Elizas is constituted of two pieces of writing: the book per se and several chapters from The Dots, a fiction novel soon to be published, written by debut author Eliza Fontaine, the main character whose chaotic, seemingly psychopathic existence we witness throughout the book. The Dots follows the evolution of the intricate, addictive relationship between Dot, whose childhood had been afflicted with illness and thus spent mostly within hospital rooms and her aunt Dorothy, a mysterious, flamboyant socialite excelling at storytelling. While I was able to infer a sort of parallelism between Eliza and her fictional character Dot at an early stage into the novel, a technique The Elizas is highly based upon and which I presume was incorporated as an attempt to pique the curiosity of the reader as well as build the psychological suspense, I thought Eliza’s psychological complexity and demeanor were sloppily and haphazardly represented by Sara Shepard and consequently, despite her unreliability, it felt I was reading a poorly written YA mystery rather than a mature, adult mystery thriller with a complex heroine reminiscent of prominent female characters crafted by Gillian Flynn, Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and other well known novelists of the genre. Furthermore, the story within the story, The Dots was written in an amateurish and slightly childish manner, giving me a hard time from the beginning. On top of the generally disappointing writing, I was displeased with the lack of development of Eliza’s storyline predominating in over half of the book. We were presented with an abundance of Eliza’s increasing paranoia, her difficulty to distinguish between real and unreal as well as the easiness with which she engaged in sexual intercourse. All this added to the overarching impression of reading about a teenager’s drama instead of reading about a female adult’s justified fear.
While I was inclined early on to give a two-star rating to The Elizas, the central twist, albeit not difficult to intuit nor jaw-dropping , was nicely thought out and well embodied into the novel. Hence, the rather unique and smart construction of the said revelation compensated for its predictability and the aforementioned aspects I was not particularly fond of.
A common and tiresome practice in the realm of psychological thriller is that of a new publication marketed as bearing resemblances to worthy bestsellers of the genre or pledging an astounding twist. More often than not, the content of the novel proves underwhelming or does not correspond to its glamorized blurb. It is safe to say that the promotion of the The Elizas has followed a similar faulty trend. Firstly, I opine that Sara Shepard has struggled lately in her quest for material to deliver best-selling page turners such as Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, The Perfectionists series and even The Heiresses. Both The Amateurs trilogy and left me with the impression of a decline in the quality of the author’s style of writing and her creative resources. Secondly, I believe Sara Shepard should maybe stay inside her comfort zone, YA mystery, since her adult novels, including The Elizas, read like YA fiction anyway.
To conclude, I have mixed feelings about this mystery thriller: I disliked the first half and then I appreciated certain parts of the second. I suppose you can try the The Elizas if you are an usual reader of Sara Shepard’s literature but don’t expect awesomeness.