Book Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel

  • Title: This Might Hurt
  • Author: Stephanie Wrobel
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
  • Would I recommend: If you like a story that examines how far people will go to master their fears, that gives off a creepy vibe that has you resisting the urge to look over your shoulder, This Might Hurt may be perfect for you.

From Goodreads:

From the USA Today bestselling and Edgar-nominated author of Darling Rose Gold comes a dark, thrilling novel about two sisters–one trapped in the clutches of a cult, the other in a web of her own lies.

Welcome to Wisewood. We’ll keep your secrets if you keep ours.

Natalie Collins hasn’t heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood’s guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they’re prohibited from contact with the rest of the world–no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it’s a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister’s cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she’s about to learn that Wisewood won’t let either of them go without a fight.

My review:

This Might Hurt opens on a shocking, perhaps even horrifying note with what appears to be an extreme piece of performance art. It was pretty cringe-inducing for me, and I’d say skip it if you’re squeamish, but it does serve a purpose to the story.

From there, we follow two sisters, Natalie and Kit, dealing very differently with the death of their mother. Decisive, strong Natalie throws herself into her work. Mild, discontented Kit has taken off for a six-month self-improvement stay at Wisewood, forgoing contact with the outside world so she can try to figure out if there’s more to life. Natalie receives a mysterious email from within Wisewood implying that a long-held secret will be revealed to Kit if Natalie doesn’t tell her first. Will she sort things out with her sister? What is the secret she’s hiding? Can she persuade Kit to leave the clinging embrace of Wisewood? Grab the book and see for yourself.

When I read the blurb, I wanted to read this book. I am a sucker for a good suspense novel, and this one sounded like it fit the bill. It didn’t quite live up to my hopes for it, though.

The story unfolds from three different viewpoints: Natalie’s, an unknown woman’s, and Kit’s (which felt like it took a long time to surface in the book). I first took the unknown woman to be either Natalie or Kit, but then there were references to her sister Jack. That made the unknown woman’s narratives fairly confusing to me, as I couldn’t figure out who she was for a good chunk of the book.

Some of the topics covered in the book, centering around the unknown woman, make for hard reading. Her father is horribly abusive and controlling, making her earn points to pretty much do anything – I mean, she has to earn points to sleep. It is her father’s abuse that pushes her to pursue a life of learning to face and conquer her fears, and to pursue a career in magic, and later mentalism, against his express wishes. The sections describing her interactions with Sir, as she calls her father, are deeply disturbing to read, and the descriptions of the extent to which she takes her performances are also sometimes difficult.

And when we got to the big reveal of the secret, it was a little bit of a letdown. I mean, Natalie says about the secret, “I have no idea what Kit will do when she finds out,” so the reader is expecting something earth-shattering, devastating, shocking. Given the circumstances in which the secret took place, it wasn’t that big of a shock to me. I wasn’t gobsmacked. It seemed like a pretty shallow root to bring forth Natalie’s huge fear of Kit finding out.

Wrobel’s writing style is easy to read, and she does a good job of drawing out compassion for our characters, even though none of them are terribly likeable. The book was good, it just wasn’t what I’d hoped. If you like a story that examines how far people will go to master their fears, that gives off a creepy vibe that has you resisting the urge to look over your shoulder, This Might Hurt may be perfect for you.

Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for an advance review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t really like.

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