Thursday, 6 August 2015

'Come Sit By Me' by Thomas Hoobler - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First things first I need to say a huge thank you to Booktrope, for allowing me to participate in this blog tour and for accepting my request to review the book on NetGalley. I'd also like to thank NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the 'Come Sit By Me' blog tour! Because this is a blog tour I'm going to make sure this review doesn't include any major spoilers, but will instead give you more of an idea what the book is about.
The synopsis is as follows: 
The boy who shot seven people in the school library is dead. But did his secrets die with him?
Something terrible happened at Hamilton High last year, and those who survived don't want to relive the past. But Paul has just arrived, and gets the same locker that the shooter used. He wants to know what really happened...and you know what curiosity did to the cat. 
I was already intrigued by the short synopsis - it doesn't give much information away about the plot or how the story will pan out, but using such an emotive and controversial topic choice meant that this book was bound to be interesting. However, I couldn't really see it having much of a plot. I believed it would dive into the mentality of the mass murderer, understand why he did what he did and that would be all, but there is a lot more going on than just that.
When Paul joins Hamilton High, he joins up as editor-in-chief at the school's newspaper. His first assignment is to interview surviving students at the memorial service for the fallen that is being held at the start of term. It seems to him that all is not as it seems - Cale, the murderer, being able to hold off police and wipe out seven people, all by himself? Something doesn't add up. So Paul decides to start investigating the possibility that someone could have been helping Cale all along...
The novel is split into three parts - Paul's story, Caleb's story, returning to Paul's story for the final segment. The first half of the novel is definitely a slow burner, because Paul needs to settle into the school and start to learn the dynamics between the students, and he also needs to try and retrospectively understand where Cale fitted in to the hierarchy. Early on Paul talks to Cale's only friend, Cecil, and discovers that Cale used to type on his laptop all the time - attempting to understand his thoughts and feelings - and kept everything saved on a USB. This little nugget of information is given at the very start of the novel, but because Cale hid his USB it takes a long time for Paul to work out exactly where it is and how to access it, so a lot of the novel is building up to this discovery.
After Paul recovers the USB, we get to read Cale's deepest and darkest thoughts about the school and the people around him. Cale is utterly illiterate, which means that this section is ritten a bit lyk dis. It's a bit of an extreme turn around at the start, but once you settle into the flow of reading his writing, it's easier to enjoy and empathise with his character. I definitely wouldn't recommend this book if you find it difficult to empathise with villains or bad guys. Because we get to read Cale's innermost wondering, you do feel rather attached to him, and can feel completely and utterly sorry for him for his lot in life. His parents are unemotive, his grandmother dies, he's bullied at school and he's exploited in the worst kind of way. However, if you really appreciate deep, psychological writing, this will be the perfect book for you. I always enjoy novels where I can completely hate a character - have no positive inclinations towards them in the slightest - but then feel it get turned around because of the author's writing skill, and that's something that occurs during this story.
I'm not going to give any spoilers towards who Cale's accomplice could be, but I will say that I did work it out very early on in the novel. This didn't put me off but rather made me more interested to read on to find out why they did what they did. If you are like me and work out endings very easily please don't give up on this book, because the way it works out is so engrossing and horrifying that you will regret missing it. I also really enjoyed the final section of the novel when we returned to Paul; seeing him try to come to terms with everything that he learnt was written extremely cleverly and had me right on the edge of my seat.
I only have one issue with the entire novel, and that's the omittance of any mention of CCTV footage. In my experience all schools have CCTV footage, so if there was a school shooting it would be easy to watch it play out at a later date and know for sure if someone else was involved. Even if there'd just been an explanation for how this didn't happen, such as the camera getting shot out or the recording being turned off in the office, it would have satisfied me - the complete ignorance of any mention means that it seems a bit less realistic.
I haven't read any of Thomas Hoobler's novels before, but I'm definitely going to need to look up some of his other writing, because I loved his style. Generally I need to be grabbed by a book very early on so I have the inclination to continue, but even with the slow build-up my attention was still held which is very rare indeed. If you didn't feel interested by the synopsis, I would still recommend giving this novel a shot - the blurb does not do it any justice, and it's much more intellectual and involving than I'd anticipated. It's also handled very well - it's a difficult topic, but I feel as though Thomas Hoobler really took his time to build up the atmosphere and develop the characters into strong individuals.

If you're interested in reading 'Come Sit By Me', it's available on Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

Once again, a huge thank you to Booktrope for allowing me to get involved in this blog tour - see you next time!

AMENDMENT: 21:05 GMT 06/08/15
Following correspondence with Thomas, it appears as though my only criticism of the novel - that it could have been viewed on CCTV footage - is incorrect, so I'd like to issue an apology. It seems as though the UK is much more flooded with CCTV cameras than the US, so this is something lost in translation across the cultures - this will mean it'll be a lot easier for American readers to relate to and understand this novel. I'd like to thank Thomas for responding to my review and correcting me, it's not something I would have thought to investigate.


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful review, Alyce! In all the school shootings here in the US that I've read about, I don't recall any that were recorded via a CCTV hookup. Maybe the UK is different. You can be sure Fox News would play them constantly if that were the case. But I do appreciate the care you gave to the review, and I'm spreading the word among my followers.

    1. Ah, thank you for contacting me - I'll edit in a little amendment. I don't know if it's just because the UK is rather security crazy but my school had lots and lots of CCTV, going so far as to have cameras up in the bathrooms monitoring the doors. It's an interesting cultural difference that that doesn't occur as frequently in the US!

  2. Speaking of cultural differences...the solution some American politicians have proposed to halt school shootings is to arm the teachers with guns! I'm sure you don't hear that from your leaders in the UK.

    1. It always intrigues me, that the politicians mentality so often seems to be "to deal with these guns, let us introduce yet more guns into the equation". For example, after the cinema shooting at 'Trainwreck' a couple of weeks ago, the loudest response seemed to be "if everyone is allowed to take guns into cinemas, there will be no cinema shootings" which is a complete paradox.