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Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.
Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.
With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are.
I’ll be upfront with you : If you can’t stand unlikeable MCs, you may want to steer clear of this book.*
While we’re at it, I need to point that the Paranormal label is misleading in my opinion : Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (how’s that for an awesome title?!) reads more like a coming-of-age/mystery novel with important magical-realism elements (I know, it looks complicated XD). Look, I’m the first to say that genres aren’t important and that we shouldn’t choose our books because of some marketing categorization, and I still stand by it, but going into this book expecting some action-packed plot and detailed world-building would only lead to disappointment.
What is it about, then? Well. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies primarily deals with Aspen’s character growth and what it means to be who we are. All the tiny traits that define us…. What if they’d been stolen? At which point do we stop being ourselves?
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (I do love this title, sorry) can also count on its captivating mystery to keep the tension growing.
But mostly, it’s about following Aspen while he’s busy being an asshole. No, really. Trust me on this. At first I thought, oh, hey, he reminds me of Cassel**, arrogant but sarcastic and I love his voice? Then he did something and I was all –
DON’T YOU DARE!!!
*Yell and throw my hands out in a frustrated fashion*
But then, his voice was still compelling? Sorry? Still, every time that *insert swearing terms* decision was mentioned I felt icky. I mentioned character growth, and yes, there is, but don’t go in there expecting that Aspen will become a nice guy at 20%. Or 50%, for that matter. I’m not even sure he is a nice guy in the end – but I’ll come back to that.
If I take a close look at his flaws, I genuinely can’t fathom how and why I was able to stand him. The guy pushed All. My. Buttons. Every time I thought that I would be able to get past some shitty decision he took, he had to go and – Ugh. Facepalm and swearing ensued.
Yet the thing is, his behavior was believable : it rang so, so true.
See, Aspen’s family has an original power : all of them are able to reach into someone – anyone – and steal a part of them for their own benefit : their sight, their ability to do Math, their sadness, their memories – you name it. Grade-A thieves, the bunch of them. Granted, the first purpose of their power is to prevent the cliff from Three Peaks, their town, to fall and well, kill everyone. But would they be humans if they didn’t use this amazing power in their everyday life? Of course they wouldn’t.
We love reading about magical characters who are so selfless and genuine and martyrs and nice and kind and… really? Who are we kidding? No matter how insufferable Aspen was, oh my gosh, that was so much more believable and – hate me for this but – so satisfying. A teenager, who grew up with the ability to (basically) manipulate people, ever since he was a toddler?! Of course he’s an arrogant asshole! It doesn’t mean that I love these parts of him, but they make sense, even if the guy is an hypocrite piece of shit.
Yet more and more along the way, we start getting the impression that something… isn’t quite right. Is Aspen genuinely clueless, delusional or a damn SOCIOPATH?
What? The guy can’t be bothered with empathy, or so it seems.
About that : (do not read before finishing the book) View Spoiler »the fact that his father repeatedly stole his sadness did make it harder for him to empathize with other people’s pain. If we don’t feel something, our brain tends to dismiss other people’s feelings as being irrelevant or, rather, as being way less important that people make it sound (I cannot remember what study it was, but it exists). So yes, stripped of his sadness and his fear, he was kind of a psychopath. It doesn’t excuse all his actions, but it helps understanding some of them. « Hide Spoiler[the fact that his father repeatedly stole his sadness did make it harder for him to empathize with other people’s pain. If we don’t feel something, our brain tends to dismiss other people’s feelings as being irrelevant or, rather, as being way less important that people make it sound (I cannot remember what study it was, but it exists). So yes, stripped of his sadness and his fear, he was kind of a psychopath. It doesn’t excuse all his actions, but it helps understanding some of them. (hide spoiler)]
Most of all, I loved that Aspen’s character development was slow and incomplete, because no matter what romance novels tell us, a complete 360 in someone’s personality isn’t really a thing. Also, he really made me laugh. Oops.
The relative predictability – I guessed one major plot point early on – actually HELPED me to enjoy the book better, but that doesn’t mean that I saw everything coming : I did not. So many lies, really : the questions surrounding Aspen’s family made for the most unsettling mystery, keeping me eager to turn the pages, because I really, really needed to know if I was right. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies was thoroughly engrossing and fascinating, albeit disturbing. As I said, though, it was certainly not an action-packed novel, and there were many random everyday life events pictured (including romance, but…). I couldn’t stop reading all the same.
The ending wasn’t wrapped in a neat bow but I thought that its honesty suited the book perfectly : Some readers can find it unsatisfying, but for me Lindsay Ribar couldn’t have taken a better decision.
Add a compelling writing, and you get an unputdownable book. A weird, but thought-provoking one, for which I developed a strange fondness.
*Yes, in the end, I cared about him anyway. Sigh.
**There were similarities with White Cat, by the way. They didn’t bother me, but they were here.