A review by emmaward55
As Good As Dead, by Holly Jackson
- Plot- or character-driven? A mix
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? Yes
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Ending a trilogy satisfactorily, especially such a well-received trilogy, is tough for many authors - and for some simply impossible. Often a trilogy will conclude and I'll be left wishing we'd just had the initial book as a standalone. This is different. Jackson wrote a book that soared above expectations and arguably became the best book of the series. I can't tell you how much I adored reading AGAD, from working through the clues with Pip to really feeling her pain, her trauma, her emotions - it was transformative. I can't think of any real criticism that I have with this title and I want to recommend it to everyone!
What really stood out to me was how Jackson handles trauma in her narrative, crucially that relating to SA and gendered violence. She writes with empathy, not only for her characters, but for her audience and she tells her story without inflicting unnecessarily triggering content on both. The words and acts of the book feel excruciatingly real and yet it is not handled in such a way as to be confusing or vague. Jackson proves that stories about trauma do not have to be retraumatising to consume.
Stepping away from the heavier topic for a moment, I loved the narrative beats of this book and they caught me totally off-guard! The tonal shift that occurred halfway through the book with Jason's murder and the way they shape the remaining plot was incredible. I'm so thankful that it played out the way that it did, because I needed it. This is a revenge book. This is a survival book. This is a "I see you, and I'm giving us the ending we always wanted for us" book. The ethical questions that Jackson has grappled with in this series are both important and timely. What do you do when the justice system fails you? What do you do when the police don't believe you? Is there a punishment that is too high for murderers and rapists? Ultimately, I think Pip did the morally right thing. She prevented two dangerous men from ever harming another innocent person and she, in my mind at least, acted in self defense. It was her or them.
Lastly, I'm a sucker for a HEA and I usually feel like a story is ruined for me if I don't explicitly get it. AGAD's ending left me with complicated emotions at first. I couldn't understand why Pip broke up with Ravi and spent all those months isolating herself from her loved ones... but that's PTSD. That's survivor's guilt, and depression, and anxiety and everything else that has compounded to make Pip the person she was. She did her best to protect everyone around her, whilst simultaneously neglecting herself and her own needs. I have no doubt that the road ahead for her will be hard, but I also know that she'll heal and she'll find her way back to those relationships. Trauma changes who we are as people, but it doesn't erase us. Pip will return changed, but alive. I think many of us can relate to that.
Graphic: Death of parent, Gun violence, Cursing, Violence, Misogyny, Addiction, Murder, Death, Kidnapping, Stalking, Panic attacks/disorders, Blood, Grief, Drug abuse, and Mental illness
Moderate: Sexual assault and Rape
Minor: Animal death, Vomit, Fire/Fire injury, and Animal cruelty