Title: The Outliers
Author: Kimberley McCreight
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Warning, this review will contain mild spoilers.
The Outliers is probably one of the stranger books I’ve read this year. I went in with one idea of what it was going to be like and it turned out to be completely different. The description I read about the book led me to believe it was about telepathy – it wasn’t.
This novel follows Wylie as she goes searching for her missing best friend following a series of concerning and mysterious texts from said best friend. Along with her friend’s boyfriend, Wylie starts following this texts, falling further and further into an intricate web of lies and mystery.
The whole concept behind this novel is fascinating. I won’t go into too much detail because of spoilers, but the idea that there are ‘outliers’ amongst the general population is one that could be believable in the real world, but also has a bit of sci-fi edge to it. Unfortunately, there was not much detail about this whole idea in The Outliers so hopefully it will be something that is explored more in the sequels.
I did find a lot of the book fairly confusing. It started off quite strongly – fast paced, with an intriguing mystery and growing sense of threat. I found the first half of the book to be very well developed – we got very clear insight into the characters and the writing was superb. At the half-way mark, unfortunately, things got weird. Wylie, and by extension the reader, is thrown twist upon twist upon twist. I found it really difficult to keep up with what was true in that moment of time and it just started to feel over-the-top and a little ridiculous. The tone of the book also shifted in the final parts of the book which, compared to the exceptionally strong beginning, felt a little bit off.
For reasons you’ll find out on reading the book, it is very difficult to talk about the characters without giving anything away. Of the three principle characters, Wylie, Jasper and Cassie, I felt Jasper was the strongest in terms of characterisation. Cassie was the weakest – hardly any of what she did in the book made sense to me so it was difficult for me to feel anything towards her. The main character, Wylie, was probably the most interesting but one that I had a lot of trouble believing. As the point-of-view character, she was an unreliable narrator, which was done very well as whatever she believed, the reader believed. This was, unfortunately, let down by the confusion of the second half of the book. I also had a bit of trouble with the fact that her agoraphobia, something mentioned a number of times when the book first begins, is seemingly overcome with little more than a deep breath. While the rest of her anxiety does remain fairly well done throughout, the fact that the agoraphobia was so easily overcome did let down the book a little bit.
The Outliers is set in the real world, only there are mysterious organisations at work and people termed ‘outliers’ exist. I don’t want to talk too much about where parts of the book is set as that would include spoilers. That being said, the setting matches the tone of the book and level of threat perfectly. The locations were also very well built and I had a very good image of where the book was located in my head. There were times where I could actually imagine that I was there – credit definitely goes to the author’s writing abilities there.
Unfortunately, The Outliers did not quite live up to expectations for me. I was very much looking forward to reading it and while I did start the book off really enjoying it, the confusion I felt from all the twists in the latter part of the book let it down for me. That being said, the relationship development between Wylie and Jasper was brilliant to read and McCreight can certainly write. I am curious to see where the series is headed, especially now we know the truth of what is going on (I think). I think part of the reason I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would was because the description did not match what I read. So, do give the book a read if you’re interested, it may just not be the kind of book you’re expecting.