Frayed is very dark, full of foreboding from the beginning. Ava’s sister, Kesley, has been murdered, and the perpetrator is yet to be found. Ava herself has been the victim of an acid attack that has disfigured her face, but we don’t learn until the end how that happened. She is surrounded by people she can’t trust and schoolmates who keep their distance, not sure how to interact with her. She has a best friend and a boyfriend, but they’re not that great, either. She lives with a foster mother who took in Ava and Kesley after their parents died, but Ava has mixed feelings about calling the woman “mom.” A childhood friend, Rafe, reappears in Ava’s school, but he’s been in juvie and isn’t particularly trustworthy. Ava’s world is pretty grim.
Her life has had more than its share of tragedy, and now she’s trying to figure out who killed Kesley, which brings her face-to-face with the unsavory members of a female gang called KARMA. And along the way, through all sorts of nasty interactions with the KARMAs, she’s learning more and more about the sister she apparently never really knew.
The author sets up a number of possible individuals as the killer, but when the murderer is revealed, it’s a bit of a deus ex machina — someone who, at least for me, came out of the blue without prior indication that the person was even a possibility.
As the narrator of this story, Ava herself is hard to get to know. She never reveals much about her human side and never shows a sense of humor. Being a victim of a lousy life does not automatically make a protagonist likeable. Ava needs some vulnerability so that we care about her as a person. Otherwise, we keep reading only to find out who killed her sister.
We think this is an interesting first novel from a young author who shows great promise to grow with experience and coaching. She has a good sense of a story, but now needs to work on character development and story arc. Flaws are desirable and make characters more realistic, but they also need some likeable qualities.
We give this book four stars out of five. We wanted to know who did it, and the possibilities were intriguing.
Potty-mouth Index: LOW Some rough language, but no use of the “f” word.
Bella Reads and Reviews received Frayed as an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.