Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Spooky and horrific, Even If We Break uses LARPing and a no-longer-quite-so-close friend group in a fancy cabin in the woods as the basis for a bloody introspection on privilege, jealousy, class, disability, fairness, and terror.
It uses rotating narrators (divided by chapter) and explores friendship, betrayal, and privilege through LARPing and a “cabin in the woods” style spooky mystery. I love this, I’m here for it, but it’s so full of those elements that if you don’t like them you probably won’t have a good time. All the narrators are differently unreliable in a way that comes together to give a picture of what literally happened without invalidating any of their personal experiences.
I like the interstitial narration, it makes it feel like there’s a GM for this weekend. It starts out feeling like the one that was planned by one of the characters and then slowly twists into something much more sinister and truly deadly. The way things get bad is a little predictable in spots, but how the characters react makes the story truly gripping. The ending is fantastic, I love all of it, it’s twisted and creepy and completely fits the rest of the book while also being surprising.
I appreciate the way it handles all the little things around class and casual wealth (or lack of money) which can add up to create small tensions and splinter friendships. Not every character focuses on it, and that’s part of the point; some of then don’t have to (they have cabins which are available anytime for a weekend getaway with friends) while others weigh every decision around whether they’ll be able to afford their next meal. There’s also a lot of focus on disability, both physical disabilities and neurodivergencies, especially when in a terrifying situation where the nearest road is a long walk away. Some of the characters are casually ableist but the book clearly portrays this as a bad thing. I can’t speak to whether the disability rep is good because I don’t have the relevant experiences, but it’s nuanced, complex, and seems to be filled with care on the part of the author.
This was a stressful book to read, and I'm glad I read it in daylight because it created and sustained a creepy mood with a sense of danger and uncertainty. My threshold for spooky books is pretty low, so if you're a horror aficionado I don't know where this would fit. A lot of the horror is more psychological, enhanced by the rotation of narrators which allowed for continuous story without giving things away.
CW for ableism, transphobia, addiction, murder, gore, major character death.