Close Your Eyes by Nicci Cloke
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Format: ARC e-book
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
We were initially drawn to Close Your Eyes because Bee was desperate to read a YA about a school shooting after missing the opportunity to get This Is Where It Ends for 99p, and the fact that this is UKYA made it all the more enticing. We’ve all heard about shootings in America, that are more likely because of the gun laws, but in the UK, they’re as unlikely as a dragon crashing into the science block. Close Your Eyes did not disappoint in its capability to build suspense and intrigue and freaking out everyone who reads it!
What’s the real USP for Close Your Eyes is its use of diverse and interesting material. Not only do you get a third person narrative that fills in the blanks before and after the shooting, but you also get interviews with each of the main characters involved, blog posts, transcripts of the 999 conversation (this opened the novel and it was INSANELY GOOD) extracts from forums and messages boards…it was such an immersive reading experience that gave you all the evidence you needed, and more. Our favourite parts were definitely the interviews, because they were so enriched with the characters’ voices. The third person had a tendency to tell rather than show, and be overly expositional but the interviews gave you a real sense of how each character spoke and reacted and thought. Pure genius.
Because of all of that, the pacing was great. This is a book that, no doubt, you can read in one sitting, and you’ll want to.
The characters aren’t the part of the story I can talk about too much, because the plot twist is so embedded in your expectations, and how the narrative is built to lead your suspicions in a certain direction. Let’s just say that there’s a mysterious boy called Elijah who gets a lot of attention because of how odd he is compared to other teenage boys.
The group dynamic, though, was fascinating. There was a really interesting mixture of cliches within the main cliche. You had the sporty ones, the arty ones, the popular ones, and the smart ones all co-existing in a little microcosm of the school environment that was so refreshing to see. The usual segregation of secondary school was broken down, and I really appreciated the nuances of the five friends’ friendship.
My favourite character was probably Ash, because there was so much going on beneath the surface. I can’t be sure, but I think there might of been suggestions of a crush between Ash and Elijah, and I wish, if that were the case, it had been developed more. Ash was so heroic and lovely, the bit where he figures out the shooter’s identity and goes in to save those still in the school was just amazing.
Special mention to Mrs. Wu. She was an absolute legend of a character and deserves all the special mentions. I did also have a soft spot for Gemma, because she was so there for her friends. She’s the kind of girl you’d want with you in a hostage situation, that’s for sure.
Overall, we were both really impressed by Close Your Eyes, although the red herrings of the mystery were easy to identify if you’re the kind of reader that second guesses things the way we do. But, for a fast, engaging story with such a strong plot hook, we were entertained all the way through, and left slightly unsettled by the end! We’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something guaranteed to keep you hooked until the very final page.
What stops the book getting a higher rating was just how abrupt subplots felt, and how unresolved things felt apart from the school shooting narrative. I recognise that that was the most important part, but I would have loved more attention paid to the little details.