Look Me in the Eye

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book, it seemed that it might be a vaguely dystopian story about surveillance and online data, but it isn't really about that at all. Look Me in the Eye focuses on three friends -- well, two good friends, Bella and Connie, who have just started high school, and Connie's slightly older cousin Mish, who becomes an unwilling companion to the others after changing schools under a cloud.

The plot of Look Me in the Eye might seem fairly low-stakes. Mish is up to no good, having contact with a mysterious older man. She shoplifts and tells lies, and does her best to evade her father's attempts to keep tabs on her. Bella's mum is pregnant and her new partner Pete has just moved into the family's ramshackle house. Connie has a fragile younger sister, who might be at risk from Mish, and Mish herself seems to have stopped eating. Pete's valuable swap card goes missing. Did Mish steal it? Bella doesn't know what to believe.

Low-ish stakes, perhaps, but by the end of the book I was totally caught up in the suspense of the story and desperately hoping for a good resolution. Mish's father is a domineering and controlling character who exudes a genuine sense of threat, and Connie's complicated position, torn between competing loyalties, is subtly drawn. I really enjoyed Look Me in the Eye, which also describes a world immediately post-pandemic, a world of masks and germ-phobia and general nervousness, where lockdown memories are vivid, a world which is already receding into history.

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