Complicit, by Stephanie Kuehn

atschakfoert's review

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I have super mixed feelings about this novel. It is incredibly messed up, disturbing, freaky...I had some truly terrifying nightmares as a result. This novel was just bizarre and mind blowing. Maybe I'll have more coherent thoughts after I recover in a few days.

ashlees_bookish_adventure's review

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4/5 stars because of the ending.

Wow. I’m not really sure where to start with this. What a crazy story. It’s been a long time since I’ve started a book I could not put down. I read 75% of this book in an evening because I couldn’t wait to see how it ended. Some questions that came through my mind while reading this; what’s the deal with Cate? Is she crazy? Does she have some sort of mental disorder that she’s not dealing with? What’s the deal with Jaime? Is he a little weird or is it just me? Ultimately, where is this going and what’s the twist? This story had me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it. A story of loss and healing and fear. Also, that ending!! We got a little closure but not really because it completely left you wishing there were more. Jaime is an unreliable narrator with a tragic past. He is 16 years old and wants more than anything to be a “normal” kid. Nothing about his life is normal, however, from his batshit crazy sister to his own medical/mental issues to his horribly tragic childhood. You’re never really sure of anything he says or does which makes you ever more curious of what might really be going on.


I’m not really sure I understand exactly how everything went down. The part about their mother makes a little sense since they were little kids and no one was around but how does Cater really end up being blamed for everything bad that happens? Is it just a case where she was blamed for one thing and a few outbursts later, everyone automatically thinks it’s her? Did she purposefully put herself in situations where it would look like she was to blame to protect Jamie? How did Jaime not get caught during any of these incidents? Also, back to the mother thing, is Jaime a psychopath? What was the reasoning behind the anger? Are siblings really that protective of each other that Cate would take the blame for everything? (I have no siblings so the “natural sibling bond” has always escaped me.) She’s just ok sitting in juvenile detention for 2 years knowing she’s innocent? What if Jaime did something while she was away that she couldn’t take the blame for? Wouldn’t it all be for nothing?


Bottom line…this book is awesome. I highly recommend it.

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mctmama's review

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This is one creepy book that will have you turning the pages to find out what happened. You sort of know from the start that Jamie has some very serious mental issues, but it takes awhile for the story to unfold. Very twisted and unsettling portrayal of mental illness.

rosepetals1984's review

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Initial reaction: Word to the wise: the less you know about this book, the better it'll probably seem to you. The writing was very good, and I'll admit I really liked turns of the book where I followed Jamie through his meandering quest to discover his past and navigating the convoluted hints his sister, Cate, drops.

But I have to say that there were things I didn't like about the narrative and places where I think it could've added just a bit more to give it that extra punch for the aim it was going for. Hopefully I can expand upon those points in the review to come. I'll try to make it spoiler free.

Full review:

Disclosure time: I have no idea what to rate this book. Seriously, I just don't, and I'm still at a war with emotions regarding it. I do think Stephanie Kuehn did an awesome thing with the aim with this book and I'll admit I was very, very intrigued by the ending of this considering the events and strides that led up to that point, but there was still something that I thought was missing through the experience when finishing the book.

Upon meditation, I think I know what it was, but before I get to that point - let me establish a few things about this book. I'm going to get what I didn't like about this out because I think that's easier to talk about and make constructive suggestions on where the narrative struggled a bit.

First off, you guys know how I feel about slut shaming. And you know how I feel about character typing when it comes to mental illness. There were instances in this book featuring these two aspects that I didn't really like for the way they were presented.

Jamie's the narrator of this particular tale: he's the perspective character expanding upon the tragedies that he and his sister Cate had to endure growing up. His mother was killed (we're not entirely sure of details except for the muddled memories of the protagonist), but suffice to say, Cate and Jamie ended up with a foster family. Cate is characterized as being this out of control, angry, powerful, coercive, sexual, blunt, and overall domineering presence in her brother's life.

I can get behind that characterization of Cate on the surface if it were portrayed in that way just by its lonesome - she's domineering, intimidating and scares the everloving crud out of our protagonist, especially when the very beginning of this book presents Cate in a "She's BAAAACK!" kind of way. You can tell that Jamie wants to get the heck away from her and that no one told him about his sister's release because they knew it would upset him badly (understatement).

But I was a bit uncomfortable with the fact that Jamie kept fixating on certain things when he described Cate - whether it was the way she dressed or her relationships with guys or things of that nature. Instead of focusing on her possible sketchy wrongdoings and manipulations of people from the get go in concrete examples, it villainizes Cate based on her relationships and appearance in places, and I wasn't here for that - although it's the kind of detail you would miss if you're not looking. Plus, some of the details surrounding Cate's manipulations were vague, including her dabbling in hypnosis among other things that Jamie reveals as the narrative goes onward. The other thing that concerned me was the portrayal of mental illness, which is a huge focus in his book. Jamie has anxiety issues, and his sister is said to have OTT issues, and somehow - to me it felt vaguely portrayed, despite its focus. I'm told a lot of details here, not really shown them and as a result the narrative in places felt removed and overly drawn out instead of keeping me at the helm the whole time where I should've been: in Jamie's head as he witnesses and experiences events, especially with his sister's return.

Long story short, I kind of expected a little more than what I was given, because there were interesting details and even the writing Kuehn does in her sparse, descriptive style is good. When I could get into Jamie's sense of fear and anxiety with Cate's return and her observances of him even in intimate moments, I was hooked. (Ohhh, you should've seen my face when Cate calls Jamie on his cellphone while he's intimate with a girlfriend - that was a scene that had tension cranked from zero to sixty. She certainly pops in at random times to remind him that she's got things to tell him and he's not going to like them very much).

I think at a certain point in the book, a bit past the rough beginning, I started feeling for Jamie's experiences because the emotions started connecting a little more intimately. He's confused, he's scared, doesn't know what's going on - wants to find out what's wrong with him, and he can't win for losing even with all the details that are coming up in his face and he searches (with girlfriend in tow) for clues from past and present relations, friendly or not so much. It's a bit convoluted for journey in places, but the guy genuinely wants to figure out what went on in his past with his mother and what drove his sister over the edge. The answers...aren't what he expects, but as a reader, you can connect the dots if you're really looking for them, and it comes across as obvious once it hits. The reason this didn't go over as well for me in the vein of psychological horror was that I already knew after a certain point what was going to happen for the reveal. The ending, however, still held a certain deliciously creepy edge to it, however, and I think that's what Kuehn was aiming for, but the problem was that the narrative didn't keep a consistent flow for me to really get the full impact of that ending for what it intended, plus issues with the "show not tell" measure. Some intimacies in the narrative were solid (Jamie liking Thelonious Monk? - Score! His respective cognitive issues and his therapist not really vetting them out? Not so much.)

This is my first venture with Kuehn for her narratives, and I'm intrigued in places enough for this to follow more, but I wish this was just a bit better in the journey. The premise was good, the writing had beautiful turns and bit details for characterization, and the ending was solid for emotion. The journey getting there, however? A bit too rough.

But it kept me reading.

Overall score: 3/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

grantaire's review

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dark mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


couchnest's review

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Are you looking for a good psychological thriller? Then look no further. COMPLICIT, by Stephanie Kuehn, tells the story of Jamie Henry and his sister, Cate, whose mother was violently murdered. After witnessing his mother’s murder, Jamie is left with emotional scars that affect him physically, causing him to have blackouts and to temporarily lose the use of his hands when he is under stress. Jamie and Cate were lucky enough to get adopted by a loving couple who are super rich, but then Cate starts acting out and doing bad things. Eventually she sets fire to a neighbor’s barn and is sent to juvenile detention. This fast-paced, gripping story picks up right when Cate is released from the detention center and starts contacting Jamie, threatening to come for him. What follows is an interesting psychological cat-and-mouse type game where we (the readers) discover things from their past through various interactions, and learn that things are not always as they seem. Add this title to your “to read” list. It comes out (hopefully) in June.

I received this ARC via Netgalley for an honest review.

librarydose's review

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Great read a like for We Were Liars. Even tho I actually figured out what really happens a few chapters in, it was still fun to read the book and discover the full extent... I also like Kuehn's dark, edgy prose. A fun read !

srousseau's review

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I just figured this one out too early and then there wasn't anything else to the story.

starlessnight's review

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Actual rating 2.25

I thought the book was good, and I did like the ending, but the "plot twist" was just so obvious, I saw it from miles away, I kept hoping that maybe I would get surprised and blown away, but I didn't. I was really disappointed about this. As I said, the book was good, but there are a few things that are not explained and that I really wanted to understand better and the book in some parts was a bit boring, I would say. I had high hopes for this book, but it was really disappointing, maybe if it wasn't marked as thriller I would have loved it more, cause it was a good read, maybe 3 stars, but it wasn't, in my opinion, a good thriller

hnmoore's review

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3.5 stars. I keep wafting back and forth between 3 and 4 stars... so we're going to settle in the middle.

One thing holding me back from awarding this book 4 stars is that miscommunication is the sole reason this book is not, like, 20 pages long. Cate, while an interesting character, is off-balance and frequently explosive when she has no cause or reason to be, and her attempts at communicating with Jamie are just abysmal. Honestly, I just wanted to see her get medicated. She needed help after she got out of jail, and there was no one there for her. Where is her parole officer? Is there someone making sure she is taking her medication? Who is looking out for Cate, as a recent release with a history of (manic) mental illness? Why is there no one here??? Ok back to the miscommunication. Between Cate, Cate's man, all the people from his past, and the therapist, shouldn't someone have helped Jamie more? They all knew the truth, and yet Jamie is left in the dark trying to piece things together. I feel that the therapist in particular really did not help Jamie as much as she should have. And Cate too, but because of her own mental issues I'm not placing as much blame on her.

Along the same lines of miscommunication, I was not a fan of the flipping back and forth of the timelines- it was done a bit messily at times, and instead of making me feel uneasy or offkilter, as I suspect was intended, I was just bored and frustrated.

The twist at the end did take me a bit by surprise, but honestly I should have seen it coming- it was easy to guess
Spoiler that he had something to do with his mother's death. However, the mental illness part that played out did catch me off guard. I guess I just assumed that because he had diagnosed illnesses (the severe anxiety, and whatever was making his hands go numb), that there wouldn't be another illness hidden behind them. That being said, it's totally on me - that's just my inexperience with mental illness talking, and I really should know better. The hand numbness was a big arrow, basically shouting GUILTY at me, but I didn't listen.
The twist and the ending are certainly memorable and stick with you for a while (what's going to happen now???), which is why I'm keeping it at 3.5 stars instead of 3.

Overall, definitely an interesting read. I don't read a lot of novels with characters that have mental illness(es), so I really enjoyed this step out of my ~epic-fantasy-with-strong-female-characters~ comfort zone.