Author: Fleur Ferris
Rating: 3 stars
Twitter has a way of making me read books I would normally never pick up, I just really like participating in twitter chats! When I heard that the newly established #bookclubaus’s August pick was Risk, I went to purchase a copy promptly. While I really appreciated the main message in the book and ultimately found it emotionally tight, I did have a couple of problems as well.
At first, Risk starts out unnervingly like a typical high school drama – and while I love watching Mean Girls – my tolerance for this type of fiction is low in my old age. Thankfully, the frenemy plot soon got left behind and Risk started to confront larger issues. Risk mainly looks into the danger of catfishing and victims of internet dating scams.
Taylor and Sierra are best friends from childhood, they love one another, though Taylor can’t help feeling that Sierra’s life is too charmed, too perfect. They were both approached by a charming guy on a chatroom, though he ultimately chooses to take Sierra out on a date, leaving Taylor envious and hurt. However, the story takes a dark twist when Sierra does not return from her date.
There is nothing but overwhelming waves of grief wedged between periods of disbelief and numbness…
The plot deals with Taylor’s guilt: for being envious of Sierra, for having such horrible thoughts of her friends just before she went missing, for not recognising that they were being groomed by a sexual predator. It also deals with her grief of losing a best friend. The mystery of finding the culprit of this crime also played a brief role in the plot. However, the main crux of the plot deals with raising awareness for cyber crime, rather than trying to solve this specific one. I wish that I did not go into this expecting a thriller, as my expectations were drawn up short.
Anger pulses through my veins, but it is not anger at Jacob Jones. It is anger at me. My stupidity and carelessness. I should have swallowed my pride and gone with Sierra.
I really felt for Taylor as she lost her best friend, I also somewhat related to her envy of Sierra initially – we were all 15 once, after all. However, I did not like how this comparison between herself and Sierra dominated her thoughts – especially when they were mostly concerned about the physical: e.g. how much make up Sierra was wearing, how much prettier she is, etc… All these insecurities were never answered during the book.
I did like how involved the parents were in this storyline. Both Taylor and Sierra’s mum played an important role in the book and in Taylor’s emotional arc. As always, I appreciate the inclusion of family members as they’re so often brushed aside in young adult novels.
Another thing I enjoyed was the relative lack of focus on the romance. The story told definitely highlighted Taylor and Sierra’s friendship, and Taylor’s coming to terms with the dangers of the internet. However, I felt that all of the side characters were really underdeveloped, not wholly unexpected in a 300 pages long book, I guess.
An issue I had with this book was the simple, direct, style of writing. It left me a bit detached from the events which unfolded, though I felt I should have been a lot more affected. It felt a bit more like a report telling me of the events, of how Taylor is feeling, without really showing me anything. I will say that it makes for a very quick read. The writing was also gripping enough to finish it in a single 2-3 hours sitting.
Maybe it’s easier to criticise Sierra. Maybe if it was her fault – if she did something wrong – it would be easier to make some sense of what happened. But the cruel truth is, what happened to Sierra could have happened to any one of us.
I did appreciate that the book raised awareness on all of the potential stranger danger of this current age. Loads of people own multiple forms of media, heck, as bloggers we should understand more than anyone how easy it is to trust and love people online. However, be cautious is always a good idea, as you never know who might be behind that computer screen, and sadly the tragedy in this book is too commonplace in real life.
All in all, it was a great debut novel by an Australian author. I actually loved it after my initial read through 2 weeks ago – but thinking back on it, I had issues with some of the writing and portrayal of teen drama. However, if you’re looking for an emotional and gripping contemporary, this one will fit the bill!