All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Uninvited – Liz Jensen

on August 25, 2012

The Uninvited
Liz Jensen
Bloomsbury Circus
2012, 302p
Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury ANZ

The incidents seem isolated at first. A seven year old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and pulls the trigger. It’s a one off, people say. Just a strange, out of the ordinary tragic incident that won’t happen again.

Until it does.

Again and again and again.

All over the world, children are viciously murdering their families. No one understand what’s happening or how to stop it. Parents are dumping their children on the street or sending them to facilities, rather than face the possibility of being harmed severely by them. Children who have already harmed their parents are fending for themselves, or being cared for in the facilities set up by the government to try and contain the incidents, so that people can try and find out a way to stop them.

While this is going on, anthropologist Hekseth Lock is attempting to solve his own little mystery – a worker in Taiwan that blew the whistle and the committed suicide, followed by something similar in Sweden and Dubai. All of them report similar things, using different words for them and Hekseth is one of the first to connect it to the strange happenings of children around the globe when he returns to England and witnesses the strange behaviour of his stepson, Freddy. Hekseth knows the explanation he is coming up with defies any logic and reasoning that he has based his whole life around – being on the spectrum means that he often struggles with emotions and connections but he is an astute observer of the human psyche.

But that hasn’t prepared him for the fact that whatever he does to protect Freddy (and himself) it just may not be enough.

The Uninvited is a psychological thriller/science fiction novel that I think taps into a great fear – children harming adults, in particular, children harming their parents. Children, particularly the children we’ve nurtured and loved and brought into the world and raised are connected to us in ways that are very hard to break. To have one of your children harm either you or your partner would be a shocking thing and the mental turmoil would be enormous. What can you do, how would you cope if it were you? If your child seemed possessed and harmed someone viciously, killing them? Would you turn them out on the street? Would you stand by them no matter what and do the best you could and pray it doesn’t happen again?

That is the question Hekseth Lock faces when he returns to England after investigating some mysteries of his own that are not unlike the children of the globe committing acts of random violence. Hekseth is not Freddy’s father, for a time he lived with Freddy’s mother Kristina until their relationship broke down and Hekseth retreated to a small cottage on an island in Scotland. Hekseth has Asperger’s Syndrome, which places him ‘on the spectrum’ – he has trouble in social situations, he often has trouble expressing emotion and receiving it. Indeed Kristina referred to him as a “robot made of meat” during their relationship breakdown and this term hurts him deeply – it is something he reflects on continuously throughout the novel, the phrase cropping up again and again as he attempts to convey that he is not a robot made of meat, that he has feelings too. He just cannot articulate them as well as the next person. After their break up, Kristina thinks that Freddy is better off not seeing Hekseth so as not to confuse him, something that also upsets Hekseth and he seeks to rectify this. He loves Freddy in the best way that he can and he wants to stay in his life and keep Freddy in his life – that doesn’t change when the acts of violence commence. If fact it anything, it only makes Hekseth more determined. He wants to advocate for Freddy when no one else will.

I really enjoyed Hekseth as a protagonist and think that Jensen did a fantastic job in portraying a character with Asperger’s. I liked his character and his humour and found his struggle with the break up from Kristina quite sad – as he is not an overly emotional person due to his Asperger’s, it’s very subtle but the author does manage to convey exactly how he felt when discovering her betrayal and at the subsequent breakdown as well as his frustration about being shut out of Freddy’s life. So I enjoyed the human interactions within this story, the family ties and the loyalty and dedication.

However – the actual mystery part itself, the why the children were doing these things, what compelled them or what motivated them, what possessed them, really felt lacking to me. I was so horrified by what was going on and so interested in what the explanation could be that when it came, I was disappointed. It didn’t seem to be very well thought out and it was abrupt and lots of things were left unresolved within the story line. I’ve heard this described as a dystopian but the dystopian elements within the story (which are towards the end) are really vague and not fleshed out at all. I wanted to know what the broader response was to this global violence, what governments and agencies were doing. There was mention of a few facilities where people could leave children during the day if they could get them accepted, but what happened at night? The facilities seemed grossly understaffed and nothing really seemed to be happening there. Apparently there was ‘research’ but I didn’t know what sort people were doing.

For me, the real highlight of this novel was Hekseth himself. A fabulously constructed and executed character, I could’ve read many books with his voice narrating. But the ultimate mystery was just not something I found to be equally as well constructed and that dragged the book down a bit for me.


Book #1153 of 2012

4 responses to “The Uninvited – Liz Jensen

  1. That’s such a chilling premise, I immediately wanted to read it – but then hearing about the disappointing ending makes me hesitate. A good idea that they didn’t know how to resolve? Bummer. Part of me still wants to read it though. I dunno. One day maybe!

  2. I did consider requesting this one for review but for whatever reason decided not to- I’m kind of glad i didn’t after reading your review Bree. Sounds like the premise wasn’t very strong and the conflict didn’t hold up despite its interesting characters.

    • I feel as though the idea was SO good – so interesting and unlike things I’ve read before. And the characterisation was great too…but it was like the author got to a certain point in the novel and then just didn’t know what to do to tie it all up and give it an ending.

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