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  • Writer's pictureCaitlyn Lynch

Book Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Ten years ago, a bunch of ultra-competitive young snowboarders gathered in a tiny French ski resort for the British Championships. One, Odette, ended up permanently disabled. Another, Saskia, vanished forever.

Now, the five people who were closest to Odette and Saskia have been called back to the scene for a reunion. Except, when they get there, nothing’s at all what they expected. It’s just the five of them. No way off the glacier. No communication, when their phones vanish. It has to be one of them doing it… or does it?

This is a classic ‘locked room’ mystery, told through the eyes of Milla, a young woman who was one of Saskia’s snowboarding rivals back then but gave up the sport after the tragedies. It’s told in twin timelines, as younger Milla is drawn into the glamorous world of Saskia, her brother Curtis, and their elite, competitive friends. Milla obviously harbours secrets and guilt, but she doesn’t know the final truth of Saskia’s disappearance.

It becomes more evident, as the story goes on, that Saskia was something of a sociopath. She enjoyed playing people off against each other, and she ended up paying the highest price for it. The reveal of what really happened to her was slow and tragic, and, for me, utterly derailed by the ‘surprise’ reveal of Saskia’s sexuality.

Perhaps it’s a massive spoiler to reveal that Saskia and Odette were having an affair, and an even bigger one to reveal that Odette recovered from her ‘permanent’ disability and is now seeking revenge, but I kind of have to, because it explains why I’m so utterly furious. Not only did the author ‘kill off’ her gays, she also villainized them. Saskia and Odette, the two non-straight characters, the two villains, both dead by the end of the book.

In the year 2021, have we not moved past this rubbish YET???

I’m particularly enraged because I was enjoying the book. It’s not wildly technical on the snowboarding front; you could look up videos of the different jumps and flips described on Youtube easily enough if you wished to, and the characters all feel realistic - we’ve all known a Saskia, that girl who is just so perfect but cannot bear anyone to get close to her level. I genuinely thought it would be Julien, the man who was wild for her back then but never allowed into the inner circle, who turned out to be the villain, but apparently that would have been Too Obvious so the Gay Villain twist was picked instead.

And for that reason, this is getting one star. And I’m absolutely fuming that this apparently has a TV deal. Gay Villains is not a clever twist. It’s bigoted and cruel, it’s actively harmful, and what are gatekeepers in publishing FOR if not to point this sort of thing out and tell writers to take it out of their story?

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.

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