Jodie has no one left to protect her.
She must defend herself.
She must change...
Pages: 54 (Roughly.)
Book Links: Goodreads
No Way Back is a spitfire of a short story. A prequel to Arlidge's DI Helen Grace series, the reader is taken on a journey of self-discovery, one full of the dark, depressing reality of abuse. It's a harrowing tale that rivets, with a protagonist that is flawed and broken but nonetheless a paragon of survival. Written simply, Arlidge shows us a life most of us can't even imagine outside of fiction, but that exists whether we like it or not.
Fair warning: This won't be a long review. No Way Back is short and will take you less than an hour, but I'll be honest, I only have praise.
Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)
Jodie's arriving at her third children's home. She's only fifteen.
Maybe this time will be different. She'll be safe. Looked after.
But the truth is Jodie has no one left to protect her. She must defend herself. She must change.
Plot - 5/5 Stars
If you're new to the series, don't worry. No Way Back takes place before the main series and tells the story of Jodie (Helen Grace's birth name) as she comes to terms with her violent, heartbreaking past. Readers of the main series, though, are in for a treat. While we know Helen's background, this novella gives us a fresh story at a pivotal moment in her life: The moment she decides she is Helen and no longer Jodie.
The journey to this moment is littered with death and destruction, games and merciless bad guys hiding behind faces of angels. It's a sharp look at the human condition, and the author effortlessly captures the spectrum. Shocks and surprises lead the way to a hopeful end, setting up the future of the series with enviable excitement.
Pace - 5/5 Stars
No Way Back is a blend of gritty storytelling and clever character development, both of which are wrapped up in fewer that 100 pages. It's fast, furious and fantastic. There are no drops in quality and no fluff.
Characters - 5/5 Stars
The only character that really matters is Helen Grace (or Jodie in this entry), but Arlidge populates No Way Back with a delightfully despicable variety of people. They're not all bad, and they're not all good, not even Helen. It captures the murky nature of humanity, of being pushed and pushed, and the different outcomes that entails.
For example, some people will shut down and fall, and that is where they'll stay. With Helen, Arlidge shows us the opposite; he shows us the kind of person who switches on and stands. Helen is a hero at her core, and this is made apparent even at a young age. The way she develops in this novella is stunning. The way she uses pain to manage anxiety, moral righteousness to battle darkness and pure resilience when the weight of the world is too much is absolutely amazing.
Writing - 5/5 Stars
Strong, smooth, and crystal clear.
Overall - 5/5 Stars
Whether you're new to the series or an ardent fan, No Way Back is a must. It's a short snap that conveys what the author's main series is like: Cold, depressing, and oddly hopeful. It fleshes a fantastic protagonist that will quickly make your favourites list, and at such a cheap price, I don't know why anyone would pass this by.
It has me so pumped for the recently released Hide and Seek, which I am ferociously working my way towards.
Next Instalment: Eeny Meeny
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