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"One of Those Faces" has an interesting premise, a great cast of characters, and the writing and plot were engaging enough to keep me turning pages to the very end. However, certain aspects of the plot are unrealistic and the finale is unsatisfying and doesn't resolve many outstanding questions raised.
***Spoiler Alert if you continue reading below***
The blurb for the novel pushes the fact that Harper--the main character--keeps running into people (several throughout the novel) who have a striking resemblance to herself. This tantalizing detail is teased throughout the novel, but is never resolved. No cloning plot line, no lost sisters, nothing. It's just a tease with no payoff.
As the story progresses, we learn that a number of people in Harper's circle of friends and acquaintances are bad news. There's the lecherous landlord who tries to kill her, the dirty cop who tries to kill her, and her own father who apparently tried to kill her in the back story prior to the opening of the book, and the drug-dealing boyfriend who apparently supplied the drugs that killed his ex--who just happens to be one of Harper's many doppelgangers that appear throughout the novel by sheer coincidence. It's all just too unbelievable. Too many people are trying to kill Harper for different reasons for the plot to be realistic.
And then there's Harper, herself. Throughout the novel she keeps having blackout episodes and/or memory loss episodes where she wakes up finding evidence that she has been out sleepwalking, or maybe chopping someone up with a knife. This is teased throughout the novel with hints that she might be the murderer. And, in the end, we do learn that she, herself, did kill someone. But the ends are not tied off, no explanation is given for why she's a sleepwalking murderess, and we're left with feeling ripped off for having invested hours of our lives reading this book. It's like heading to a reportedly great restaurant and getting there to find that it's been turned into a run-of-the mill burger joint.
Lastly, there's the ending. After all the people trying to kill her are themselves dispatched to the great beyond, and after just learning that Harper is a sleepwalking murderer, it's revealed that her medical school student boyfriend with whom she's just moved cross-country with to start a new life is a drug dealer who's stealing and re-selling the medications of patients at the hospital where he's been working. We're left on the cliff hanger with no resolution. No details on just how many people Harper did or did not kill herself, and no details on whether or not her drug-dealing boyfriend intentionally killed a fellow-student who was onto his scam.
But wait! There is yet another bombshell that is left unresolved! AlSO in the last scene, in her boyfriend's closet, Harper finds her long-ago ex-boyfriend's notes from his current job as a journalist that indicate he was zeroing in on the drug-dealing boyfriend's scam. Said ex-boyfriend has just had an "accident" which resulted in him being put in a coma. End of story. So, no resolution to this bombshell, either.
This novel was a page-turner precisely because you expect all these plot points to be resolved in the end. But they aren't. Now that you know this, I doubt you'd find it interesting enough to read yourself.
Got far too invested in it for the end to then massively disappoint with so many things left unanswered or resolved. It's a shame as had a lot of potential and was a good read in many ways, but overall to not have the storylines all tied up was something of a let down.
Early on in this book, I thought it might be a DNF. The protagonist was so consumed with self-hatred, self-doubt, and second guessing her every move, that my patience with her was wearing thin. Even her friends noticed her perpetual state of agitation, as almost every interaction included this question to her, "Are you OK?" (I promise that sentence must be in the book close to 100 times.) I convinced myself to power through because there was no doubt that her terrible childhood experiences had left her a damaged emotional and psychological wreck. Still, her propensity to make self-defeating decisions over and over made me shake my head. An interesting factor that kept me reading was that the storyline started to remind me of "Orphan Black," an intriguing television show on BBC a few years back about a woman who discovered she was a clone. She ran into different versions of herself at every turn. While the protagonist in this story is not a clone, her twin sister died when they were children. In "One of Those Faces," by Elle Grawl, surviving sister Harper noticed that women who looked just like her were being murdered in the neighborhoods she frequented. She even thought she might have heard sounds of one of her lookalikes being murdered. She lived in fear that someone was trying to kill her but kept killing women who looked like her by mistake. On the plus side of the book, I got interested in her relationships with three male characters - two potential love interests and a police detective. I'll give a shout out to an unexpected and entertaining plot twist. Just when I thought the ending of the book would give me the payoff for hanging in, it took a Lifetime Moviesque turn which left me wondering, "Why did I think this was going to get better?" If you don't like cliffhangers at the end, you will be very disappointed. Despite my criticisms, if there were to be a sequel, I would probably read it just to find out how Harper would react when a horrifying possibility that she had considered based on friends' comments turned out to be the bitter truth.
I found the jumping around annoying and the story really far fetched. Persevered as I wanted to know who was gaslighting the main character and who she could trust but sad!y a story left unsatisfactorily unfinished
First of all, the horrible ending in itself is reason enough not to read this book. I'm not sure if the author has a sequel planned, but that definitely felt like the beginning of a second novel rather than the ending of a novel.
One good thing this book had going for it was that it kept me guessing. I came up with about three or four solid theories of what I thought was happening. One of them was similar to what really happened. At least I think it was similar to what happened. I'm still left not knowing fully what happened or why it happened.
Unfortunately, this book is kind of all over the place. It felt like the author had several mystery story ideas in her head, and instead of using one or two to create a solid suspense novel, she decided to use them all. Unfortunately, this resulted in several loose ends and pieces of the story that weren't really resolved. Not to ruin anything, but I'm still not sure how there could be so many people who looked like our main character.
While there is some behind-the-scenes violence, as a reader, you miss the graphic violence. There are characters having sex, but for the most part, that's left to the reader's imagination. There is quite a bit of swearing. It's not on every page or even in every chapter, but it happens regularly throughout the book.
No, no I'm not. Not after having spent time reading this only to have it make no sense in the end.
This book starts out promising and I was immediately into the story. It kept me guessing at what was really happening and I wanted to keep reading to figure it out. Yes, there were some strange things that were hard to believe like the fact that there were three (maybe more? I lost track) other women running around Chicago that looked so much like our main character Harper that even the mother of one of these other women mistakes Harper for her daughter. But I suspended disbelief and went with it. Harper is a mess. Drinking, taking drugs, and generally just miserable but I accepted that based on the trauma she'd apparently experienced in the past.
Then about 50 to 60% into this book, things started to really unravel. Characters surrounding Harper start to drop dead and Harper is hung over, drinking, taking drugs, or sleepwalking through the pages. Much of this could have probably been cut from the story to shorten the book. And the number of times someone asked Harper "Are you OK?" really started to grate on my nerves. Yes, it was asked so many times that it started to really annoy me.
I kept going though and got to the last few chapters of the book. As if things hadn't already unraveled enough with this book, the last few chapters really started to go off the rails. But I kept going thinking that surely all the questions I had about all the events earlier in this story were about to be answered. But nope. The author just stops. Nothing from earlier wrapped up into how the book ended. I think she introduced too many plots earlier on in the book and had no idea how to tie them out at the end.
And lots of unanswered questions. What really happened to Issi? Was it just an accident? What happened to Harper's mother? Father? Why was there mud / leaves on Harper's feet and in her bed when she woke up? Why were there muddy footprints in Iann's apartment and out into the stairwell? Why was Jenny in the story at all? What happened to Woodstock and why didn't they check the cameras to see what happened to him? What happened to Danny? Who checked Erin out of rehab? I could go on and on but you get the point.
If you like convoluted stories and unsatisfactory endings, pick this up right away. But if not, skip this one.
Pretty good for a first novel. Oh what a rollercoaster of a story. So many twists and turns. Surprises. Poor Danny. He’s the one who got the rawest deal in all of this. Harper; well she’d been on her own since age 16. And traumatized through most of that time. But she’s very stupid and does stupid things. I accepted the ending, the bad guy ending. But the ending, ending? Terrible way to stop the story. What’s the real denouement?
The author's writing is gifted, at times almost masterful. She is able to convey a real sense of what her characters are thinking and feeling but she chose plot lines and character development which left gaping holes in the story. As many others have pointed out, the ending was just awful with little or no explanation of what had happened or why it happened. Characters' motivations and actions were often left woefully unclear which severely limited one's ability to really "connect" with them throughout the book. Far too many subplots, many of which went nowhere or were extraneous to the central threads of the book. And the heroine's endless angst really became tiresome. Even the fundamental animating factor - her abuse at the hands of her father - was poorly explained and left the reader unmoved about her supposed vicimhood. This was most unfortunate as we wanted to support and empathize with this young woman but ultimately could not. I would happily read another book by this gifted author based on her writing skill but I would sincerely hope that she chose a tighter, more well sculpted story with much better character development and plot integration.