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Book Review: Fellside by M.R. Carey

Book: Fellside
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Supernatural/paranormal, mystery, thriller

My Review and Thoughts: This is the second book of M.R. Carey's that I have read. The first, given to me by one of my best friends, was The Girl With All the Gifts, which was a fresh take on the dead and dying (get it? I'll go home) zombie genre. While I am not usually a zombie story fan, I really did love Carey's version of the undead epidemic and the characters were very real and the story and action incredibly compelling. So when I first saw that Carey had a new book out, entitled Fellside and featuring a voice (or voices) haunting a prisoner at a women's prison, I immediately thought YES: the supposed paranormal meets Orange Is the New Black. Maybe Carey could give a new spin on a genre that I love. And in a way, he did. I just didn't really care for it that much.

The story started out promising: Jess Moulson, heroin addict, wakes up in a hospital room, not remembering what's happened. The realization that she's been injured and convicted of starting a fire in a drug addled state, which, instead of injuring her boyfriend John, had actually killed the young, troubled boy, Alex, she had befriended and who lived in her building. Wracked with the guilt of something she cannot even remember, she is sent, after multiple surgeries to fix her facial burns from the fire, to the women's prison Fellside in York. Determined to kill herself via hunger strike, she begins to waste away until she hears a voice speaking to her, seemingly through the walls of the infirmary. Could this be the voice of Alex, back from the dead, ready to exact blame on her? Or does his restless spirit need help? In order to find out what truly happened to him on the night of the fire, the night she can't remember, she must commit to living and investigating that fateful night and if she really did hurt Alex- or if someone else was behind it.

Fellside (the book and the prison) is a web of people, lies, conspiracies, and dreams, all tangled up together. There, we get different characters perspectives, not just Jess's, from both authorities and prisoners. The various prisoners, whether newcomers or the lifers; a cunning crime lord, who from prison, runs drugs in and out of the prison with help from her lover aka the skeevy warden. The blubbering and frightened doctor runs the infirmary, and is terrified of the warden and the nurse working for the doctor, who wants to exact her own kind of vengeance on Jess for being a child killer. But instead of being an intricate web, it feels rather clunky switching back from character to character, when really all you care about is Jess's view, and what she discovers about that night, as passive and boring as it may be. (Though you do have to admire Carey's incredible work of describing so many, and different, characters with distinctive personalities and traits.)

I had extremely high hopes for Fellside, but it was less a paranormal read (which I was fine with) than a very strange and not very effective story about redemption, for more than a few characters. Nothing in the book that happened caught me off guard, or showed anything too original. As diverse as the characters (and their backstories) presented were, it didn't justify the books length to be over 400+ pages long and I felt myself having to drag myself to finish the book (which is never ever a good sign when reading a contemporary fiction book). A good effort, but overall it just felt uneven and fell flat.

Should You Read It: If you really love M.R. Carey's previous work, then you should probably try to give Fellside a chance. It is a different and unique story and setting, but for me, I was expecting something a bit more complex and emotional. And while the ending was somewhat satisfying and heartfelt, I couldn't help but be disappointed by one of the "twists," that I could pretty much guess from the moment the first clue was dropped. (The other, not so much, but the reveal was pretty anticlimactic and a little rushed.) All in all, I would probably only suggest it to another person, just to see if someone else saw something in the book that I just couldn't see.

Have you read Fellside? What did you think of it? Am I just missing something? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,

Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble

Or, check out a copy from your local library! (Like I did)

Author Page

Check Out the Author:
Official Website
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