The day seventeen-year-old Grace Carlyle decides to end it all, she wakes from her last drunken moments to find herself kidnapped. She’s alone in a boarded-up white room where the only interesting things are the pile of pens and reams of paper and her darkly handsome kidnapper Ethan.
Ethan makes sure she has clothing, food, and little else. All she can do to stave off the boredom and terror is write.
So begins Cat Clarke’s YA novel Entangled. Told through Grace’s “diary” entries in the room, the story at first begins with Grace working through what happened that night she meant to take her own life. And how, drunk on gin, she instead began talking to a stranger in the park, and woke up trapped.
Gradually Grace tells more of her story, and through her desperate and rather pitiful entries, we begin to see her life and what drove her to her decision. She wears a mask of not caring, of drinking hard, and being the girl the guys like to party with. She’s judgey, mean, shallow, and rather not nice. But while Grace’s character has all the self-absorbed hallmarks of any seventeen-year-old, there’s a very damaged girl under all those layers.
Her relationship with her best friend Sal and her growing attachment to her first real boyfriend Nat are splayed out in detail – a slow, agonising reveal. While Grace remains oblivious to what’s really going on around her, Cat Clarke lays out enough clues that the reader can see just how blind Grace is, and if not like her, at least feel a tremendous amount of pity for her. She is the agent of her own destruction, but as Grace’s writings bring her closer to her own realisation of the truth, and to the final haunting moments, it’s hard not to wish you could leap in and shake her, or at least save her from herself.
Clarke deftly spools the story out from end to middle, and back up to the end again, with a fast-paced read that highlights Grace’s own unreliability as a narrator. She sees what she wants to see, even if it will ultimately hurt her.
American readers used to a somewhat more puritanical approach to teenagers may be upset by the sheer level and amount of underage drinking, swearing, and casual sex, but it did not feel out of place within the story and setting. If librarians and teachers are able to look past any problems parents might have with the tone and subject matter, it would make an interesting discussion book with its focus on depression, suicide and cutting.
The resolution is fairly dripping with pathos, but does leave the reader with a smidgen of hope.
Recommended for: Readers of contemporary Young Adult and New Adult, who like a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of teen angst, and want their characters a little raw, a lot flawed, and very broken.