"Thrill" Book Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Written by Wendy Potocki
2014, 340 pages, Fiction
Released on February 13th, 2014
Thrill is a story of a good but bullied young man who decides to change his life and become enmeshed in a gang lifestyle at staggering costs to his life. It's a well-crafted but moderately flawed tale that drives the reader along to its conclusion. Narratively, it's a strong story, but its central character Kyle is not a very sympathetic protagonist and is almost unlikeable, which leads the reader to not become as attached and care as much as they could. He is described as having been bullied, but it's all in the past and not demonstrated. Perhaps if there had been more to show his motives for his actions, we could empathize more and understand the choices he makes, which prove to be his undoing.
Aside from Kyle's inherent flaws, there is a corollary subplot involving the father that feels jarring and misplaced in the midst of Kyle's identity crisis, subsequent chaotic descent, and the unfolding ramifications of his lifestyle choices. The mix of teen-coming-of-age-conflict, peer pressure, remorse, and voodoo revenge is deftly managed and well handled. The father's subplot ultimately has its own payoff and does add to the angst Kyle feels, but it goes too far and travels down an unnecessary path that doesn't add enough to the story to justify its dark meandering. There was enough to satisfy without the father's decline being thrown in.
The one area I wish author Wendy Potocki had spent more time on was the voodoo. By building a richer mystique around voodoo priestess Sissy Fry, and building a greater tension and fearful nature in her abilities, it would add far more to the story. As is, Sissy's limited to an almost cameo role. I would have liked more interaction between Kyle and Sissy to play up their inevitable confrontation, a scene which is satisfying and conclusive, but a tad brief and slightly anti-climactic. If Potocki had played up the strength of the priestess's powers a little, or if the punishments had fit the victims' faults more, her curses would have more impact. Look to American Horror Story: Coven's Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) as a sterling example of stern voodoo justice, or Taduz Lemke from Stephen King's Thinner for purposeful vengeance delivered with flare.
Overall, it's not a bad read, but it's not a great one either. Potocki writes well, but her style feels a bit clipped and perhaps a bit too pedantic for the characters she gives life to. Always grammatically correct, but not loose and flowing; her writing feels a little stilted for the tone of the story she's crafting. She has the talent to tell a good tale, but it doesn't feel as natural and relaxed as it could. It's a very English Literature approach to a pulp novel story, as if Jane Austen wrote a treatment of Boyz in the Hood.