You Can’t Hide by Sarah Mussi

The Blurb On The Back:

Lexi has been in an accident.

But she can’t remember it – or any of the events leading up to it.

The only thing she knows for sure is that she’s still in danger.

As fragments of her past start to return, Lexi thinks she knows what happened.

But can Lexi trust her own memories?  Because if she’s wrong … she’s in more danger now than ever before.

Exactly what happened on that spring evening down by the railway tracks?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

When Lexi Clarke and their mum arrive in a small, coastal town in Massachusetts, they are literally seeking to start new lives.  They have fled Britain and Lexi’s step-father, Charlie, who beat and abused the pair of them for years, even pouring boiling water over Lexi’s hands to leave them terribly scarred.

But something happened after they moved to America. Something awful.

Lexi’s now in a hospital ward.  She’s been told that she was in an accident near the rail line and it injured her brain, leaving her in a coma for 2 weeks.  Her Aunt Gillian tells her that she must remember what happened – that it’s very important for her to do so – but the details are so fuzzy.

Helped by her friend Crystal, Lexi tries to remember what happened after she and her mum arrived in the town.  She knows that it involved Finn, the cute boy she met when she started the new high school and she knows that it involved Jules, the queen of the school’s mean girls, who was dating Finn and viewed him as her personal property.  She also knows that it involves Charlie, who was determined never to let Lexi and her mum go and who would do whatever it took to find them again …

Sarah Mussi’s YA psychological thriller convinces on the emotional effects of domestic abuse on victims but is hamstrung by a deeply silly plot that sees Lexi make ridiculous decisions for unconvincing reasons, plot twists that are too easy to guess and two-dimensional antagonists. This is a shame because Mussi tries to deal with the serious themes of abusive relationships, bullying and sexting but the plotting lets the themes down.

I think the big issue with the book is that Mussi tries to pack too much into the story.  Had this been a straightforward SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY-type plot of a girl and her mother escaping an abusive man determined to find them, I think it would have been a taut and interesting thriller.  However, she is also keen to draw a parallel between the physical abuse suffered by Lexi and her mother and the emotional and manipulative abuse that Finn has experienced at Jules’s hands.  This might have worked better had we been shown more of their relationship and how she interacts with him and how Finn deals with that, but instead their relationship is really just background to the fact that Jules is a cartoonishly evil bully and queen bee who apparently dominates all in the school without any real push back.  Added to this is a late addition sexting storyline that was telegraphed early on but where I really didn’t understand the outcome (which, in the circumstances, seemed ridiculously overdone – although I do not doubt that US law can be puritanical and unreasonable about such things).

Lexi herself is convincing in terms of showing the effects of Charlie’s abuse on her and her mother.  The abuse scenes themselves are chilling, not least because Mussi holds back on the detail, which ramps up the sense of dread.  Unfortunately Charlie is such a caricature villain that I found it very difficult to believe in Lexi’s assertions that he was able to charm police officers and other people into believing him – especially in the scenes where he seems to channel Gollum by talking to himself.  I also believed in the early scenes where Lexi decides to reinvent herself, using her experiences to stare down those who try to intimidate her but it makes the later scenes where she allows herself to be bullied and manipulated for entirely plot manufactured reasons so disappointing and disappointing to believe in, especially as she is suddenly very dense as to understanding why she is being asked to do certain things.

The relationship between Lexi and Finn is a pretty bog standard YA insta-attraction affair that seems in part to be based on the fact that Finn is hot and is made weird by Lexi making a ridiculous decision to lie to Finn early on (a development that appears to exist only to give Finn a reason to feel attracted to her and is a needless attempt to establish some sense of guilt on his part).  Also weird is a scene where Lexi decides to invoke witchcraft to try and secure Finn’s affection – again, another needless development that doesn’t add anything other than to alienate Lexi from the reader due to her strange and obsessive behaviour.

There is a silly, melodramatic quality to many of the plot developments and the twists are telegraphed too early and too obviously while the ending is just overblown and ridiculous.  There are some good moments in the book but they’re not enough to make up for the flawed execution and as such, this book just didn’t work for me and I’m not sure I’d rush to check out Mussi’s other work on the basis of this.

YOU CAN’T HIDE was released in the United Kingdom on 7th February 2019.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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