As much as I love books, I rarely have a physical reaction to them. I read them, I get sucked in, but I rarely have any kind of physical reaction to them, including crying. No matter how tense or horrifying a book is, my brain can usually separate it as fiction and just let it go. This book is the exception. Every time I picked it up, my guts twisted up. I felt myself clenching the book harder in fear of what was going to happen next. I had to read it only in short burst because I had trouble keeping myself calm. Basically, it horrified me to my core.
The story is told in alternating chapters from a mother’s, Suzette, perspective and a daughter’s, Hanna. Suzette is a doting, loving, stay-at-home mom, while the father, Alex, works hard, loves his family deeply, but doesn’t fully see Hanna’s behavior as troublesome. She loves her father and is perfect around him, so there’s a struggle between what Suzette and Alex know about their child. Hanna is a mute 7-year-old with borderline psychotic behavior. And once you learn her internal dialogue, you realize how deeply disturbed she is. As far as we know, Suzette doesn’t do anything to deserve the rage Hanna shows her. And the number of schools Hanna has been kicked out of had every reason to do so.
As the plot unfolds, the tension grows. Hanna comes up with a plan to fully rid herself of her wretched mother, and the results are deeply troubling. I was constantly fearful of Hanna, and as a parent of a 7-year-old myself, I was easily able to put myself into Suzette’s place. What would I do if Hanna were my child? I just can’t even imagine that life, honestly. I was happy to finish this book so I can put it behind me, but Hanna will stay with me for awhile. It is hard to shake the thought of a psychopath 7-year-old.