My rating: 5 of 5 stars
HOLY SHIT THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME.
I think the best thing about this book was all the twists and turns the plot took.
I hate predictable, tropey books where you read the blurb and then are able to predict the ending based on the genre. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so into thrillers and mystery lately; the entire point of a thriller/mystery is you don’t know whodunnit or what will happen next. And OH MY GOD THIS BOOK DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. I literally skipped my Master’s swim practice (my favorite thing in the world) because I just NEEDED to finish this book.
First I was like
The FBI has just rescued a group of women from their captor, known only as the Gardener. He kidnaps sixteen-year-old girls, tattoos their backs with enormous butterfly wings, calling them his Butterflies in his Garden, then kills them when they hit their 21st birthday. Most of them are in the hospital, too weak to give any sort of statement, except for one. She only gives them the investigators the name “Maya” and isn’t very straightforward with her answers.
I was confused because I wanted to know how these women escaped, and how the FBI agents found them. It took me a hot minute to get into the story because I kept backtracking, thinking I’d missed some explanation about how they were found. Turns out that comes near the end, so when you read, you just kinda have to roll with what you’re being told and trust that all will be revealed to you in time. (I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler)
Then I was like
The concept of this book is just so amazing. This sounds like such a cliche, but I got chills down my spine as I read, because it’s just so easy to think that somewhere in the world, there is someone like the Gardener kidnapping and enslaving young girls before killing them and preserving them in resin. It’s both disgusting and revolting and also yet oddly captivating, almost like watching an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Then I was like
The way the Gardener treats these girls is both endearing and absolutely pathological. He kidnaps them (mostly focusing on girls who have no family or anyone who will look for them–in fact, this backfires later when a girl who does have a family is brought to the Garden, but I don’t want to spoil anything), tattoos them, then rapes them for five years until their twenty-first birthday, at which point he murders them and preserves them in resin. Ew. And yet at times, he’s also protective of them, particularly when it comes to his pathologically-abusive son Avery. Admittedly, there are a few plot holes in that, like why does he keep allowing Avery to come into the Garden if Avery is just going to defile and abuse his Butterflies? Maybe the Gardener both abhors Avery harming them and also gets off on being fatherly to them after the fact?
And now having finished I’m just like
THE ENDING WAS SO F***KING AMAZINGLY PERFECT. Aside from one useless, come-out-of-nowhere “plot twist” that really didn’t need to be there and didn’t add anything to the story (we all know what plot twist I’m talking about–yes, I adhere to the popular opinion that (spoiler) did not need to have been a (spoiler)), the ending just suited every bit of what I was expecting from this story. There were no “loose ends” left dangling, we finally learned how they escaped the Garden and how the FBI rescued the girls (and why there were twenty-some women in the Garden but only a dozen or so escapees), and I just felt so satisfied and emotionally drained and all bits of “OMG THIS BOOK IS AMAZING AND EVERYONE MUST KNOW ABOUT IT.”
And yet, and yet… No book is perfect, and this one certainly had its flaws.
The descriptions of the Garden were sparse, so at times when the scene relied on you knowing the exact layout of a room or the setting itself, we didn’t get a clear image in our heads. Some scenes kind of lost their impact because how the characters were positioned, where things were located, etc. was important to the scene yet not properly set up.
As I mentioned above, the “twist” at the end was incredibly pointless and added nothing to the story. Why did (spoiler) have to be a (spoiler) just to explain how Maya wasn’t freaking out upon being taken to the Garden for the first time? We could have just assumed it to be because of her personality or whatever, or maybe she realized the best way to survive was to remain calm, not piss off her captor, and just do what he says. Stockholm Syndrome. She didn’t have the necessary resources to escape, so she did what she had to do to survive.
In summary: A gripping suspense novel that had me literally on the edge of my seat the entire time which both solved a current reading slump and put me into a new one. xD
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