Personal Effects: Dark Art Review

September 16, 2009

I’ve read many a back cover that claims a book is “gripping,” “pulse-pounding,” and a “fast-paced thrill ride.” PERSONAL EFFECTS by JC Hutchins actually delivers. (ha, you see? I’m capitalizing now like a Real Writer! ^_~ )

The concept alone sold me (partly because I drafted something similar but didn’t have the means to see it through). It’s a book that crosses the boundary between fiction and reality by including pieces of evidence from a murder case. There are phone numbers you can call, birth certificates, and more. I enjoyed translating the braille but most chilling was the piece of artwork. Reading along, I took the paper and did as the the characters did, folded it to match up two symbols…. BAM, message.

I didn’t expect the writing to be anything special, often a concept sells weak writing, but this is some of the best I’ve ever read. My heart raced through the majority of the book — if it wasn’t so damn scary I would have finished it in a night. I was dying to get to the end just so I could read it all over again.

There are some spots that could have had less backstory and I thought I had everything figured out at the beginning–but the line between reality and fiction is even thinner than I realized.

If the characters don’t do it for you then you may find parts overwrought, but I was right there with them every breath. It’s freaking brilliant. Hutchins layers the fear and builds quirky, unique characters… I mean, Lucas the parkour expert? But the traits aren’t just throwaways, they relate to the plot even their affectionate ” ‘dore you” slang is an integral clue.

I don’t usually like metaphors and similes because they’re often cheesy, ridiculous or overly poetic at the cost of the story but I was drinking up those in PERSONAL EFFECTS. The protagonist describes his hyperactive brother as “pop rocks for the soul” and you get “the sound-scape of the city played kick-drum backbeat to our high, ragged breathing.” The unique specifics he chooses make the story leap off the page.

I also just plain loved the characters. I’m a geek and not just a geek but a weird geek. I often have a hard time finding characters I relate to. Pretty much Jaenelle from THE BLACK JEWELS trilogy by Anne Bishop and Stargirl in STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli. That’s it. But Zach, Rachel and Lucas had me from square one. I love Zach’s relationship with Rachel, it’s geek romance perfection yet still conflicted enough to stay interesting. Sometimes authors fall back on manufactured conflicts, miscommunication mainly. But the moment Zach and Rachel’s relationship is tested was heart-wrenching because it was so real, they each had very valid reasons for their opposing choices.

In conclusion, I have a new favorite author.