Title: Close Your Eyes
Author: Nicci Cloke
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Format: E-ARC from NetGalley
Release Date: 23rd February 2017
Description from Goodreads:
Southfield High School is oh so normal, with its good teachers, its bad, and its cliques. But despite the cliques, there’s a particular group of friends who have known each other forever and know that they can rely on each other for anything.
There’s the twins: Aisha, rebellious, kind, and just a tiny bit worried about what the hell she’s going to do once this year is over, and Vis, smart, quiet and observant. Then there’s Remy, the loudmouth, and Gemma, who’s more interested in college boys and getting into the crap club in town. And then there’s Elise: the pretty one.
But at the start of Year 11, when the group befriend the new boy, Elijah, things start to change. The group find themselves not as close as they used to be.
Until one Tuesday, when the students are trapped inside the school building. And one of them has a gun.
Close Your Eyes is the story of a school shooting which, through interviews, messages and questionable actions, asks: Who is truly responsible?
Disclaimer: I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected the opinions expressed in this review.
Close Your Eyes opens with the transcript of a 999 (emergency services) call made by a panicked teacher reporting a shooting, this packs a punch immediately setting the tone for the rest of the book, fostering an immediate sense of dread. What stands out the most about Close Your Eyes is how cleverly it is structured to maximise tension. From the very first page you know what will happen, it’s the why that keeps you reading. Short chapters make it incredibly easy to keep reading, this is definitely one of those books that you won’t want to put down until you turn the last page.
The use of interviews along with chat logs and journal and blog extracts makes it feel as if you are reading the results of an investigation. Chapters of more traditional, third person narrative connecting the ‘evidence’ tie the story together, giving added insight and compensating for those whose testimony’s are absent.
The focus is on a group of six friends, with the first half of the book examining the months leading up to the shooting, using hindsight to look at ‘warning signs’. It is a high stress period of time; covering February up to the shooting. This also happens to be their last year of secondary school with GCSE exams looming and the pressures of what comes next adding to the tension. Delving in to the lives of the six friends, we get insight into their backgrounds, the issues they face, and their relationships.
We do get to know some characters a little better than others, largely due to the fact that only some of the characters are interviewed over the course of the book. This keeps you guessing about whether certain characters even survive, it doesn’t stop you caring about them though. Each of the characters have a distinct voice, with their own worries and personalities. They were also all relatable in some way, and at times Close Your Eyes had me remembering my own time in secondary school at that age. Familiar topics such as bullying, exam stress and anxiety about the future are all addressed over the course of this book and they are all handled in a way that feel authentic.
Cyber bullying is also a major theme throughout this Close Your Eyes, with it looking at several of the ways that the internet and social media can be used to torment people. Also addressed is how much easier it is to be cruel online, where you can have a certain degree of anonymity and how on the receiving end, the harassment can feel inescapable.
This book is a powerful read, and important, common issues are handled skillfully. Keeping its cards close to its chest, and you’ll definitely find Close Your Eyes difficult to put down. I was gripped to the very last sentence. Haunting and tragic, this is a book that packs an emotional punch and has really stayed with me. I gave Close Your Eyes 4.5 stars.
If you want to pick up a copy of this book, I’ve left some links below (none of these are affiliate links, I’m just trying to be helpful).