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All Unquiet ThingsReview - All Unquiet Things
by Anna Jarzab
Listening Library, 2010
Review by Christian Perring
Feb 23rd 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 8)

Neily is a high school senior at a private day school in the Bay Area.  He is alienated and disaffected: he never felt that he fit in with the rich kids around him, and since his ex-girlfriend Carly was murdered, he has been miserable.  The father of Carly's best friend, Audrey, has been convicted of Carly's murder.  Audrey asks Neily to help prove that her father is innocent and to find the real killer.  They start asking around and get other people annoyed with them as they get closer to the truth.  They knew that the wealthy people are hiding secrets, but they didn't realize how dark it is under the sunny California surface. 

The novel is narrated alternately by Neily and Audrey, who don't always see eye to eye.  Audrey was the one who plotted in getting Carly to dump him in the most humiliating way possible, by making out with another boy at a party.  But they manage to work together, brought together by their love for Carly and their hate of their high school.  They are both bright and articulate, and the students at the high school are privileged.  Nevertheless, the cliques and problems at the school are not that different from any other school: sex, drugs, and violence.  There are also plenty of family problems.  Neily's parents are divorced, and he has an especially bad relationship with his father, who has always put great pressure on him to succeed.

The plot moves well, and having two narrators helps keep the reader from getting tired of Neily's alienated and humorless perspective.  It's not the most psychologically profound novel: given that both narrators have experienced a terrible loss and get no emotional support from their families, and it is California, you would expect something more psychologically raw, but the novel does not really get us to the heart of the characters.  It could have been set anywhere in suburban America, since we don't get much local flavor.  The Bay Area is interesting and the novel would have been more distinctive if it had given the reader more about what it is like to live there. 

The lack of characterization of Neily is heightened by the performance of his part by Mike Chamberlain in the unabridged audiobook.  He delivers his words slowly, without much inflection in his voice, which makes the character seem flat.  The performance of Audry by Allyson Ryan is more lively and make the audiobook more enjoyable.

All Unquiet Things is an unusual young adult novel given its murder theme, so it is worth checking out.  Author Anna Jarzab has written a well-crafted book, and the story, while pretty straightforward, is entertaining and satisfying. 

 

© 2010 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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