Title: The Special Ones
Author: Em Bailey
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
The Special Ones was the book club pick for one of the libraries that I go to, and I checked it out even before I knew that it was the Halloween pick for our book club. It sat in my library stack until the week of book club; I always like to read the book on the day of, or a few days prior, to the meeting so it stays fresh in my mind. I started reading The Special Ones on Sunday and finished it the next day. A dark tale of cults, religious fanaticism, and the surprising endurance of hope in the face of terrible danger, Em Bailey's creepy novel had me spellbound against my will, grabbing me by the throat and not letting go until the very end. Even when I wasn't reading it, it remained in my thoughts, taking up resident space in my brain and sending my thoughts into a whirlwind. If you're looking for a creepy, dark psychological thriller to read in preparation for Halloween, you need to check out this visceral debut Aussie novel!
Esther is one of The Special Ones, chosen by a mysterious man named 'He' to be reincarnated. As His most devout disciple, she keeps her head down, does as she's told, and keeps the delicate way of life of their farm going. She tries to convince herself that she is happy, but the only thing that brightens the monotony of her days is her friend, Harry. When the chance for freedom comes along, Esther risks everything to break free of her leader and get back to the normal world. But He won't let her go without a fight, not when his obsession with her has reached its peak...
I'll start this review off by saying that I have mixed feelings about The Special Ones. It was enjoyable as a story, but it ended up bringing up some bad memories. My family and I were in a cult throughout high school, and it ended with us leaving when I was a senior. It didn't affect me as much as it did my family, and I couldn't help but picture the mysterious 'Him' as the man who tried to ruin our lives. Nonetheless, this debut was creepy, dark, and often bittersweet. With gorgeous prose that explores both the horrors and tiny miracles that make humanity, The Special Ones really captured my imagination, often against my will. I was frantically flipping pages to try and unravel the mystery. I really liked Esther and her creepy, sparse narration. The resilience of her spirit was really encouraging and inspiring. And her forbidden love with Harry! Gah, it killed me!
I didn't really like any of the other characters, and it was a little jarring when the point of view switched. I liked the way that we were given a glimpse into the mind of the villain, but I still have so many unanswered questions; I feel like though it was open-ended, there were a lot of things that weren't cleared up. I liked the ending, but I wish there had been more information about how the characters were doing in the aftermath; like a longer epilogue? Nonetheless, what a book to read in preparation for the spookiest night of the year! The bottom line: A dark, frightening tale of secrets, lies, scary villains, and a quest for freedom, I really liked The Special Ones! Next on deck: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas!