“Providence” by Caroline Kepnes ★★★★

A big thank you to Random House/Lenny Books and Netgalley for providing the eARC.

How do I begin? If you’re one of those great reviewers, you are supposed to use meaningful quotes, take notes, and provide a witty, entertaining recap. I’m an emotional reader. I don’t have time for notes, and I’m a crappy writer. So what you often get with my reviews is random stream of consciousness feely stuff. Like, this book was giving me major Unbreakable vibes, and I totally think M. Night Shyamalan should make Providence into a movie. (For the record, I love M. Night, so begone haters!)

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Jon Bronson is an odd kid without many friends. He wore his Spiderman costume when kids were supposed to have outgrown that kind of stuff. He is obsessed with fluffernutter. He can’t ride the bus because he’ll get bullied by the jocks, so he walks to school, taking the long way. (I can relate to this, as the same thing happened to me in elementary school. I literally walked two miles every day to avoid a girl a grade younger than me calling me names loudly on the bus. Incidentally, when I finally stood up to her, she stopped bullying me, but I can’t remember if I resumed taking the bus or kept walking.)

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Chloe Sayers is the popular girl who is friends with Jon. She is also friends with the jocks and other popular girls, so she is only friends with Jon sometimes. But, she gets him.

One day, as Jon is walking the long way to school, something happens (spoiler) and he disappears for four years! Chloe is devastated, stops hanging around her other friends, and begins drawing (she ends up an artist). When he returns, he is very different. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give anything away.

The first 25% of the book is told in Jon’s and Chloe’s POV. A new character, an upper-forties-something police officer named Eggs comes into the picture after that. The writing style is similar to You. There’s a sort of stream of consciousness vibe, along with anecdotes from the characters’ lives that blend into the ongoing plot.

I found myself immersed instantly and didn’t want to put the book down. I think this is Kepnes’ strongest book yet, although I have not yet read the follow up to You, Hidden Bodies. I liked this one much more than You (although I did enjoy that one too).

I don’t usually read contemporary fiction, to be honest, unless it’s quirky. This definitely checks the offbeat box, although it doesn’t overpower the story. Also, there is a fantasy aspect, which really sold me. Kepnes also writes interesting characters, in that they are gray. Sometimes they do good things and other times, you see how flawed they are. For instance, Chloe can be self-absorbed and Eggs is not a very good husband sometimes.

I think the characters were really brought to life well and fleshed out. The scene at the end where Eggs finally visits his autistic son brought a tear to my eye (my black shriveled heart rolled its eyes). I liked the ending. Questions are left unanswered, but I felt satisfied. I really liked all three of the main characters! I am left wondering what will happen to them.

I guess I will end my review because I really don’t want to give anything away and think you should just read the book. I recommend it for those who don’t mind lots of swearing (just throwing that out there; this isn’t a bland contemporary thriller; it’s got a mouth on it) and who also enjoy quirky fiction with a splash of fantasy.

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