- The Deviants by C. J. Skuse
Rating: * * * * *
Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: Sept 22nd 2016
Series? – Standalone
When you set out for revenge, dig two graves
Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.
When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?
I rushed to pick up a proof of ‘The Deviants’ at YALC, having heard glowing comments about C. J. Skuse’s new novel. Having read it a few weeks ago, I can confirm that the wonderful reviews I had seen were exactly right. ‘The Deviants’, a kind of YA version of Enid Blyton’s classic ‘Famous Five’ children’s books, is a fantastic mystery novel. It is one of the best books I have read this year, and, indeed, one of the best books I have ever read.
‘The Deviants’ is brilliant right from the opening. The first chapter is very mysterious and it hooks you straight away – a dead body is found on a beach. Then there is a section between the protagonist Ella and her boyfriend Max in the garden centre, which is very unsettling as we see the cracks in their relationship – Ella’s irritable mood, the fact that she does not remember an important date, the fact that the two of them are on different pages when it comes to intimacy, and Ella’s anger about where Max’s money comes from. C. J. Skuse establishes the mood and tension straight away. She also fills us with questions that we cannot wait to hear the answers to, especially with Ella’s comment that there are lots of things that even Max, whom she has been dating since she was thirteen and has been friends with for most of her life, does not know about her.
One of the main aspects of this novel that I absolutely loved was the way that each chapter ended. At the close of every chapter is a question or a comment from an unknown person who is talking to Ella. These comments fuel what Ella narrates next. This makes the book both really mysterious and very gripping.
Another aspect of the novel that makes it truly gripping and impossible to put down is the fact that there are twists and surprises dropped in that you will not see coming. A few of these surprises come from a character named Fallon who is one of the Fearless Five, and when she dropped these twists in I am sure my mouth dropped open and I was gawping at the book, so it is lucky I was not reading it in public! I read ‘The Deviants’ in two sittings and the only reason I did not read it in one was because I was exhausted and had to sleep. As soon as I got up the next morning, I rushed to start reading it again. I had to know what happened next.
Another strength of ‘The Deviants’ is that it is very vivid. Whether Max and Ella were on a date in the garden centre, or Ella was boxing and running with her coach Pete, or the gang were in Fallon’s kitchenette, I was picturing every scene as I read. The book truly captured my imagination.
I also loved the characters in ‘The Deviants’. Ella is a brilliant main character. She is fiercely loyal and will put herself on the line to protect her friends and she is talented and driven. She is very relatable because she has doubts and she has faults. She feels very 3D, as do Max and the other members of the Fearless Five. They are all gritty. I found the friendship and scenes between the members of the Fearless Five very moving. The part where Fallon tells Ella, to Ella’s extreme disbelief but pride, that Ella has inspired her and the part where Ella and Zane go to the island, because that area has a remoteness that will be useful to Zane at that point, especially touched me. This is one of those books where, after I have finished it, the main characters feel like old friends to me, for I have grown so attached to them over the novel’s course.
The ending of the novel is very well executed. Everything comes to a heart-stopping crescendo and it will have you right on the edge of your seat. The ending links back to the beginning in a really interesting and unpredictable way, as with ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart. In fact, ‘The Deviants’ is the perfect novel for fans of ‘We Were Liars.’ Upon finishing each of these two books, I felt the same thing – I wished that I could wipe the novel from my memory just so I could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time.
The final thing that makes ‘The Deviants’ really special to me is the fact that as soon as I finished it, I passed it over to my sister so that I would have someone to talk to and fan-girl over it with. My sister had not read YA for a long time and she does not read that much fiction. ‘The Deviants’ changed that. She read it in a very short time, being as hooked by it as I was, and raved about it to me. She loved it as much as I did, and it has refuelled her love of reading.