2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Someone Is Always Watching by Kelley Armstrong

Blythe and her friends—Gabrielle, and brother and sister Tucker and Tanya—have always been a tight friend group, attending a local high school and falling in and out of love with each other. But an act of violence has caused a rift between Blythe and Tucker . . . and unexpected bursts of aggression and disturbing nightmares have started to become more frequent in their lives. 

The strange happenings culminate in a shocking event at school: Gabrielle is found covered in blood in front of their deceased principal, with no memory of what happened. 

Cracks in their friendship, as well as in their own memories, start appearing, threatening to expose long-forgotten secrets which could change the group’s lives forever. How can Blythe and her friends trust each other when they can’t even trust their own memories?

Overall Recommendation:

Someone Is Always Watching is more of a dystopian than a mystery as we dig into the secrets buried inside of a group of teenagers who start noticing disturbing behaviour among themselves. It’s different than what I would have thought the story would be about initially. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, I didn’t connect well with any of the characters, and the overall mystery was less central to the plot than expected. I think the world of Kelley Armstrong but this wasn’t among my favourites from her.

**Someone Is Always Watching comes out April 11, 2023**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

I’ve been a Kelley Armstrong fan for a long time now, having the pleasure of meeting her when I was in high school when she started writing YA novels. With that said, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of her writing styles and genres.

This book changed things. And I’m not entirely certain how I feel about it even after waiting a little while to write this review.

We follow mainly one girl, Blythe, in this story, but we’re immediately immersed in this friend group that grew up together in a small town due to their families’ connections to the organization that employs them all. I’m not sure about you, but immediately that raises all sorts of red flags in my head. Perhaps I’ve read far too many dystopians, but this is precisely more the genre this book lands in than the mystery of what is happening with these teenagers.

I won’t say that the “mystery” relating to what’s been going with Blythe and friends, their loss of memory of strange occurrences and direct involvement in suspicious deaths/behaviors, was all too hard to guess. The only thing that may have took me slightly by surprise is the identity of who has been leaving Blythe cryptic messages about her and the others’ past. It definitely got more predictable as the story went along but that was one intriguing aspect of the story.

For a shorter length book, the pacing did leave me wanting more. It wasn’t as suspenseful as I had hoped because the mystery wasn’t all too hard to predict. But what makes a book beyond its plot are the characters, especially if the plot didn’t drive the story as much as one would expect. Would I say the characters were beloved in any way then? No, unfortunately I really can’t.

Right off the bat we are introduced to Blythe and Tucker, their younger selves, as individuals with a darker side who wants to cause a little destruction. Fast forward to their older selves, Blythe has tried hard to rein in her darker side and Tucker has a reputation for being dangerous, even from the grown ups around him. I’m all for having well-rounded morally gray characters but it was hard to find the sides of Blythe and Tucker to love.

The others in the friend group we follow sometimes but not in depth. Tanya doesn’t display much emotion, and is even characterized to have sociopathic tendencies. The only person she can fathom loving is her brother, Tucker. Sure, that’s great at least, but doesn’t inspire me to want to know her better. Gabrielle was the first one of them to display a loss of control and acting erratically so knowing her normal self wasn’t really something that was explored.

Then it seemed that a romance was being pushed between Blythe and Tucker. I’m sorry, but this forbidden relationship felt too forced in some ways. Sure, they may have both loved one another since they were young but could not be together because Tucker was “dangerous”. However, making their love more of a central piece of the story didn’t make one difference to me. So much of the focus was on what is currently happening to them and their search for the truth that having this romance appear felt disconcerting. I love romances in stories but this was more of an add-on. And all I could feel was apathy.

All this being said, I love Kelley’s stories regardless of my lack of enthusiasm for this one. Perhaps my expectation coming in was for the mystery to be more central and shocking. If you’re new to Kelley’s writings, I will say you should come in open minded, and this book is just one among the breadth of her stories in the YA sphere.


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