Book Review: Mice by Gordon Reece

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ARC cover

This is an ARC that comes out in August 2011 from Viking Press and was lucky enough to come along with me to the beach. I started this book the very last day and was hooked, which was good. The last day on Sanibel our flight left at 9:00 at night, but we had to check out at 1:00, and so figuring out how to fill the time in between was less than relaxing. Mice was a nice distraction.

This is the first book I’ve picked up in quite a while that turned into a real page turner. It’s billed as an “electrifying psychological thriller about a mother and daughter pushed to their limits.” This sounds very movie trailer-ish, doesn’t it, and I have to confess, made me reluctant to pick the book up for a while. It is a thriller, but more sophisticated than your off the rack at the grocery store type thriller.

The narrator is Shelley, a fifteen year old girl who has retreated to an isolated cottage in the English countryside with her mother after being the victim of school bullying that escalates into violence. Shelley describes her and her mother as mice in a world of predators; they don’t fight back, they don’t complain. The girls who bully Shelley aren’t prosecuted by the police or punished at their school, and instead of fighting back, Shelley and her mother withdrawal. They hide and cower like mice in a corner. The exciting part of this book is when all that begins to change in a rather dramatic fashion.

This book starts strong and takes you through some rather startling events in the lives of the two main characters, Shelley and her mother. I love the metaphor of Shelley and her mother as mice and then the character exploration of what happens when they are no longer mice. As Shelley asks at one point, if we’re not mice, what are we? I’m sad to say, as it progresses, it seems to lose its way. There was a moment as I was reading when I was flipping through the rest of the pages and thinking, wait, how is he going to end this with only 30 some pages left? It seems like there’s a lot more that needs to be wrapped up. And the answer is, he really doesn’t.

Sometimes I have that feeling, that, is-this-really-going-to-end-badly, moment, and by that point, I’ve lost all faith in the author’s ability to carry it off, so the crappy ending is no surprise. I have to say, I didn’t feel that with Reece. I thought, wow, I don’t know exactly how he’s going to end this, but I have faith in his ability to pull it off. That made me especially disappointed when he didn’t. Disappointed, like, wishing I could write to Reece and ask him to try another ending. Disappointed because I really wanted to be able to wax enthusiastic in my review…I liked the book. But the ending just went too far off course. It was like the essays I wrote in college where I spent a lot of time revising the first part of the essay and then just fizzled out at the end. It is an advance copy, so maybe there’s still time…..?

How important is an ending to your feeling about a book? Do you need an ending that wraps everything up? Can you live with a fizzled-out ending?

New cover?

P.S.  Inspired by this week’s  Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish on worst book covers, I have to say, the ARC cover for this book is much better, in my opinion, than the one here that may be the actual cover.  The ARC cover kind of overruled the horrible back cover copy for me and is part of why the book got packed for vacation.  The new cover fits the back cover copy much better, but not particularly the book itself.  As someone said in the comments at Bibliophile by the Sea, “just the cover shrouded with fog is a real grabber.” And it is.  There’s a kind of theme in The Cover Girl’s top ten covers she’d redesign, and it seems to have to do with eyes.  Eyes on the cover…just not working.  Especially strange, disembodied eyes.


  1. I'm so disappointed that the cover will change, because the ARC is gorgeous and cannily conceived. The other cover looks like it's trying to be a Scandinavian noir thriller. Sorry to read that the ending disappoints. I've not picked this one up yet and hadn't decided if I would or not. The town where our bookstore is had a tragic bullying scandal last year, which is why I was interested…

  2. Robyn,

    Thanks for directing me to your awesome blog, and terrific review of MICE! Now, I am really anxious to read this one –well done.

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