Thrilling and enthralling, Sweet Damage is a book written by Rebecca James.
Tim Ellison is aimless and unmotivated after finishing high school. He’s stuck working at his dad’s restaurant with no real ambition to go to university or get a proper job. He still sleeps on the couch of his ex-girlfriend’s home, that she also shares with her boyfriend, even though they broke up months ago because of Tim’s lack of ambition. So when Tim finds a cheap room of a mansion in the perfect location in Sydney, he feels as though finally things are going his way. But this house comes with a catch. Tim will be rooming with the house’s owner, Anna London.
When Tim first meets Anna, he thinks she’s timid and weak. She relies heavily on her lawyer friends Fiona and Marcus, who helped her get a roommate so she doesn’t have to cope all on her own in Fairview, which she inherited after her parents died a few years ago. Tim doesn’t understand why any of this would be a problem for him, until he find out that Anna has a condition. She’s agoraphobic, which is an anxiety disorder that means she is too afraid to go outside. Anna’s a prisoner in her own childhood home.
For the first time in what seems life forever, Tim finally has a hold of his life and things are turning out great. Sure, Anna might be a little odd. She sits up in the attic for hours on end and speaks mysteriously of her lost love named ‘Benjamin’. And then there’s the house itself. Tim hears things at night and thinks he sees a dark figure in the hallway watching him sleep. As more and more crazy and unexplained things happen in Fairview, Tim questions whether the cheap room and good location is worth it. Is he just imagining these things, or is there something more sinister going on?
I loved reading Rebecca James’s first novel, Beautiful Malice, and I was so excited to see her new book at my local library. I immediately hoped I would like this book as much as I liked her other novel. In fact, I ended up loving this book even more than her first one. Like Beautiful Malice, I grabbed by the alluring cover. Sweet Damage has a really creepy-looking girl on the cover. Behind her is what looks like an old room in a house and the wall behind her has a huge crack in it. The girl’s lipstick is the same colour as the words ‘Sweet Damage’. Coincidence? I think not. I absolutely love the cover and when I picked it up, I couldn’t wait to start reading this book.
Firstly, I loved where this book was set. Like Rebecca’s other novel, this book was set in Sydney as well. After going to Sydney a few months ago for a holiday, I loved reading all about Manley and some of the other locations in Sydney. I liked being able to clearly picture what these places looked like because I’d already been there. Secondly, I knew that Rebecca can convey complex and damaged relationships in such a realistic way so I couldn’t wait to see what characters she had created this time.
The reason why her books are so scary is because they deal with real psychological issues and the way people can behave with these issues cannot be expected or predicted. Beautiful Malice explored mainly the effects of a dishonest friendship, whereas Sweet Damage actually had some pure horror in it. Spiders in the bed, blood-like letters written on the walls, someone watching Tim sleep; it was so scary! And even though is seems that Anna might be the person doing all of this, Tim still falls in love with her, showing that he might have a few issues himself. All of this made the book incredibly thrilling and fast-paced. This is definitely a book to read with the lights on!
Like Beautiful Malice, every character in this book was complex and no two characters were the same. Tim was a very trusting and optimistic person who always tries to see the good side of things. However, he’s obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Lilla and can’t seem to get her out of his head. Lilla is a flirty and self-obsessed person with a few issues of her own. Even though she has a boyfriend, she still flirts with Tim to make herself feel good and boost her ego. Tim knows this, yet he still sticks around like a moth attracted to a light.
My favourite character in this book would be Anna, as weird as that might sound. She started off being a weak and frightened girl to Tim, however as the story unfolded, she gained strength and courage. Everything weird and creepy that happens in the house seems to point to Anna, but she denies doing anything and seems shocked by everything that happens. Even though she clearly has some mental issues, she is sweet and her real personality is shown later on in the book.
The book is pretty hard to fault. The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was that I guessed what the ‘big secret’ was about 150 pages before Tim worked it out. That’s the only problem with reading a lot of these types of books. Even though I guessed what was going to happen, I was still surprised to see that what I had thought was going to happen did in fact happen.
Overall, this book was a real psychological thriller that I was completely engrossed in. I loved the depth of the characters and the complex relationships between these people. I really enjoyed reading Sweet Damage by Rebecca James and I’d give it a score of 9 out of 10. If you haven’t read either Beautiful Malice or Sweet Damage, both are by Rebecca James, I highly recommend reading them. Be prepared for a thrilling rollercoaster of a story that will need to be read with the lights on!