Review: What It Seems by Emily Bleeker

A fast-paced thriller about perfect families and the secrets they struggle to hide

Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.

It is rare for me to come across a thriller with a premise I haven’t seen. Considering that this is the genre I find myself drawn to the most, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I see many of the same tropes being recycled. That was why I was so excited to read this novel – it sounded like a very fresh and modern thriller!

What It Seems book cover

What It Seems

by Emily Bleeker

Published February 17, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN: 1542043743

Data from Goodreads

Adopted by her controlling foster mother at the age of eight, twenty-year-old Tara has seen little of the outside world. Lonely, punished for the slightest offense, her only distraction comes from watching the Feely family’s online videos. They’re an affectionate vlogging quintet and an internet sensation. Most important, they are Tara’s mental refuge. Then the opportunity arises for them to be something more. When Tara accepts an internship with the close-knit clan, they’re her escape.

Daring to run away, and defying Mother’s rules, Tara is welcomed into the loving fold. But the more Tara gets to know them, the more she realizes that not everything is as it seems. As secrets slowly surface, the image of the perfect family begins to crack. For Tara, it’s another trap.

To claim a life of her own, she’ll need a new escape plan. Because as the show’s popularity explodes, reaching even more fascinated viewers, Tara can’t shake the feeling that Mother is among their ranks. She’s watching. She’s waiting. She’ll never let her go.

My Review: More Depth Needed

TW: abuse

This story had a lot of potential with its unique premise but it just wasn’t as successful as it could have been.

The Pros: What worked for me

  • I really liked the way the author opened up the story. The way the reader was able to get into the head of Tara, the protagonist, and understand her plight was really good; I was invested in her character and worried for her.
  • The writing style made it easy for the reader to get into the story and the pacing was decent, too.

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • Once Tara makes her daring escape, the story quickly switches from being a thriller to being an existential crisis of sorts. As one might expect, reality is never what it seems and Tara is surprised by the Feely family off-camera. If I’m honest, I didn’t really care about this revelation. It’s not something new, and it wasn’t even used to drive the story in any particular direction.
  • The author had explanations for scenarios that seemed a bit too convenient … but the explanations still didn’t leave me satisfied. While plausible, it was just a bit too simple and I wanted more development here.
  • There was a blossoming romance in this novel that made me roll my eyes. It was not developed well, and it really wasn’t necessary.
  • The ending was just too damn convenient. After all of the struggle Tara went through, the way things wrapped up in the end was just too easy. It left me feeling very disappointed.

Throughout the novel, I couldn’t help but feel as if the author just needed to spend more time delving deeper into the content to bring out the darker elements of the story. The premise has so much potential but the convenient explanations and lack of depth let it down.

While I ended up reading the book and didn’t mind 75% of the story, the disappointing ending and consistent lack of depth means I can only give this book 2.5/5 stars.

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