Published by Hardie Grant Egmont on 1st April 2016
"He keeps us here because we're special."
A claustrophobic and irresistible cult book like no other, from the award-winning author of the YA thriller Shift.
Esther is one of the Special Ones – four teens who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? Here, they are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are – all while broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside.
Esther knows he will renew her if she stops being Special. And yet she also knows she's a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, no genuine advice to offer her followers. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance if she wants to survive long enough to escape.
Once upon a time I told myself, “Don’t read Em Bailey novels when it’s past midnight and pitch black outside and the wind is howling and every little shadow makes you jump.”
I’m not a very good listener. I read The Special Ones late at night, and there were lots of things scratching against the trees outside.
Let’s just begin by saying that The Special Ones is incredibly hard to review. There’s so much I want to talk about, but can’t, because SPOILERS, and I don’t want to give anything away. It’s just one of those books you just have to read to understand how spine-tingling creepy it is.
Let’s start with the basics, then. What’s it about?
Esther is one of four who live in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. They’re known as The Special Ones, seemingly immortal beings who live the “perfect” life and give guidance to those on the outside world. Or at least that’s what He has told them, an unknown person who watches and controls their every move. Because these children are trapped in the house, forced to act out the lives of people that they don’t have any link to – except in looks.
The Special Ones is full of suspenseful, tense moments that will make you want to keep reading, even if it’s really late at night. There’s a lot of thought-provoking moments, especially in relation to online identity and the consequences the anonymity that the internet can afford a person, especially into playing into emotions of young adults and consequently grooming them by pandering to easily read thoughts of being alone and separated from peers. And I think that’s essentially where the creepiness factor gets driven up fifty percent, because it’s a stark reality.
I dropped off a star because while it was everything I wanted, there could have been a bit more. This isn’t a story about answers, so if you like closure, take a deep breath before you wade in. We do get to see into the mind of Him, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get inside the mind of a psychopath and try and understand why He did certain things. I would have loved more, but I guess that’s the same for a lot of books that you enjoy – it’s never enough!
Thrillers – too scary or love them? If you have any recommendations let me know in the comments!