This Might Hurt – Stephanie Wrobel (Michael Joseph 2022)

Stephanie Wrobel’s 2020 debut known in the UK as “The Recovery Of Rose Gold” was a 5 star little gem of a novel.  Its Munchausen By Proxy theme (although never actually specified in the book) fascinated me and it had an “under the surface darkness” which I loved.  It just missed out on my Top 10 Books Of The Year.

So, naturally, I was keen to read the author’s second novel although I must admit that when I heard the main setting was an island retreat for those who want to be fearless I didn’t experience the same anticipation as I did for the debut but I was keen to add the name of Stephanie Wrobel to my list of authors with two or more 5* reviews on this site (and because I am so stingy with my top rating she would have been only the 10th author to achieve this).

However, and as the title states, “this might hurt”, for me this book fell quite a bit short of my top rating and compared to her last book I felt so disappointed that I contemplated a two star but then appreciated that I had set the bar so high in my mind for this particular author and that 3 stars was the most fitting for this work.

Firstly, I found the narrative structure confusing.  I read enough books not to be confused by characters, but here I was, I thought maybe I was being misdirected on purpose and expected some big reveal but it never happened, I had just got characters confused.  I also love a bit of darkness but here I couldn’t get to grips with the sadistic nature of fearlessness or why these particular characters saw it as desirable.

There’s a number of first-person narratives here.  A child is being bullied into her father’s vision of reaching her full potential, being made to score “positive” and “negative” achievements and facing punishment if her score does not make his grade.  A young woman is at an island retreat getting her life back together when her sister receives a “I know what you did” type email and she goes to the island to confess a family secret.

The plot did not have enough to really hold me and unfortunately and surprisingly, considering how I felt about “Rose Gold”, the characters did not come alive  for me.

There are pluses, however, I liked the sense of isolation on the island and the not knowing whether anything was what it seemed was done very well.  It is another accessible, commercial read.  It is in comparison with Stephanie Wrobel’s previous work that this, for me, feels a little flat.

This Might Hurt is published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 3rd March 2022.  Many thanks to the author and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

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