Monday, 15 December 2014

Review: Undone by Cat Clarke

Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: January 31st, 2013
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it. Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself. Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down. 


Undone is only the second of Cat Clarke's books I've read (I know, I know - please don't throw things at me!) but it's the best so far. I was utterly hooked right off the bat and I truly do think Cat is one of the UK's best YA writers. She doesn't hold anything back and goes straight for the tough stuff, even if it's a bit grim and sad. Real life is tough, so it's great to read a book that doesn't gloss over that small fact.

The whole premise of Undone is a sad one; Jem's best friend Kai has committed suicide and written monthly notes to her to be read posthumously. Jem is of course struggling to come to terms with the loss of Kai, and she eventually turns to revenge and sets off down a path that can't possibly have a positive outcome.

Jem and Kai are both excellent characters, particularly Kai who we only really get to see through his letters and Jem's memories. He's kind and thoughtful, doing the best he can go ensure Jem will be okay after he's gone. Jem is grieving and angry, and the only thing she knows how to do is punish those who made Kai's life so bad that the only way out was for him to end it. They're at very different ends of the spectrum in terms of how they are as people, but personality wise they're just the best fit.

Undone isn't a particularly easy read due to its dark subject matter, but it is an honest one. Cat Clarke doesn't hold back on reality, and what transpires after the first few chapters is actually pretty shocking. Revenge is a dangerous path to go down, and it always, always has consequences. Jem learns this the hard way, and the novel has a fantastically ambiguous ending that can be taken one of two ways. It's a clever way to finish the story, and it stayed with me for quite a few weeks after I put the book down.

Undone is a book I should have read sooner, but in any case I'm glad it was worth the wait. It's a fairly long novel clocking in at just under five-hundred pages, but it never feels like that. I could have carried on reading Kai's letters and Jem's attempts to honour his wishes for another five-hundred pages, and my only complaint is that it had to end at all. This is hard, topical writing at its best and I enjoyed every page.

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