As I Descended by Robin Talley
Genre: Retelling, Mystery
As Our Own Private Universe was one of the most disappointing reads…ever, I thought that I’d try and place my faith in Robin Talley once again with the only book of hers I haven’t read. Advertises as a retelling of Macbeth set in a boarding school, I was ready to go. Retellings are my fave, no matter what’s being retold, and a better setting doesn’t exist.
I have read Macbeth, which was a big plus as I could appreciate the arc of each character, and which threads were specific nods to the Shakespeare, but a grasp of the original play isn’t necessary to appreciate how spooky this is!
Okay, so, if you know Macbeth, you know things get a little crazy at the end…literally. The characters all have a slow but great progression to their predestined madness, and it was fun to see how quickly their mental states unravelled. It translated excellently to the high pressure environment of fighting for a scholarship.
This book was great for diversity, giving you two POC main characters, a physically disabled love interest, and LGB sexualities. This level of diversity is always something you can expect from Robin Talley, and I love knowing that before picking up her books.
The boarding school setting wasn’t used to its greatest potential. It’s a closed off environment, sure, but there was no sense that class was going on at the same time as the plot…everyone just felt like roommates. Especially because extracurriculars like football and the GSA were only mentioned and I would have really liked to see the teens involved in those things. There was homecoming, but that could occur at any American high school.
The police investigation could have been waaaay bigger as well. It felt like only the main characters were panicking about the fact that a girl fell out a fourth floor window, and everyone else was like, ‘the school’s haunted, i guess, idk??’ As the book progresses, you get more of a sense of the haunted history of the school, but no one gives it much stock unless it’s in hindsight.
Delilah, the popular victim of Maria and Lily’s plot for the scholarship, didn’t feel like she’s deserved to be knocked down. She was stand offish with Lily, but friends with Maria, and their hatred seemed a little misplaced. That posed the two girls as unlikeable, but it didn’t stop me feeling sympathy for them when crap started to go down.
Still, I liked the creepy atmosphere and the dissent into mental instability the most, and there’s the basis on which I’d recommend this book. Out damned spot and all that. You’ve got your ghosts, Ouija boards, demon spirits telling you to kill yourself…classic stuff. Perfect spooky read if you’re willing to solely concentrate on the mystery, and not the surrounding world in which the book takes place.