Open Your Eyes, a review by Joanna

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Open Your Eyes
Heather J. Fitt
300 pages
Published June 27th, 2022
Wow this is quite a debut. Open Your Eyes is a stand-alone suspense novel which explores the scary world of the online incel (involuntary celibate) movement and their venomous hatred of the very notion of feminism. This was a powerful, thought-provoking and sometimes uncomfortable read, covering some dark topics.
Frankie Currington is a junior newspaper journalist who wants to cover crime stories, rather than the fluff pieces her editor requests. When her story about the history of International Women’s Day starts getting her public attention, she is sent to cover the investigation into a series of rapes across the city, triggering a wave of threats from misogynistic trolls. As Frankie is drawn in to the feminist cause, to the alarm of her boyfriend Todd, she attracts the attention of a disturbed young man desperate to prove himself to his monstrous fellow incels, with terrible consequences…
This was fluidly-written and well paced, with short chapters and believable dialogue, which made it easy to read, but the subject matter meant I couldn’t “enjoy” it. I wasn’t sure if I was meant to like or approve of Frankie and Todd as protagonists – they’re both very immature and selfish. I have a general dislike of journalists as main characters, because of the “anything goes in pursuit of a story, no matter who gets hurt” attitude they all seem to share, and Frankie’s naive stupidity was frustrating to read about – even though the book’s title suggests this was deliberate. Her treatment of Todd was despicable –  no matter how annoying his behaviour was.
The most intriguing character was Liam – Fitt does a great job keeping us hovering between sympathy and horror as he devolves from pathetic virgin schoolboy to repugnant rapist-in-training, through the encouragement of his sinister new “friends”. I have no doubt that such communities do exist, and in this internet age have great sympathy for the young women unfortunate enough to become their targets by, for example, simply turning down an invitation out. The mentality that awkward young men are entitled to sex with attractive women as a kind of human right would be laughable if the consequences were not so deadly. The fact that I couldn’t decide whether I wanted Liam to die, be imprisoned or be redeemed is a testament to the author’s skill. This would make a good book club pick because of the discussion potential, as long as readers are aware of content warnings (for rape in particular.)
I loved the Edinburgh setting – but this is actually a story which could take place anywhere. I also particularly liked the ending, which doesn’t take the obvious route, and left the characters’ fates somewhat open. While this doesn’t feel like a series, I’d be interested to read a sequel. The Ruby character was also an interesting one – it’s unclear as to whether she’s as naive as Frankie, or cynically manipulative for her own ends, and I would’ve been keen to know what happened to her. Finally, a special mention for the stunning cover image – very different to anything I’ve seen lately and it stands out while remaining relevant to the title and plot. Thanks to Bloodhound and Heather Fitt for the opportunity to read an advance copy. I am posting this honest review voluntarily.

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