By Carolyn Lee Adams
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Mystery
Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.
When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.
At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.
The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decide just how far she’ll go in order to survive.
Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.
I want to first address the fact that I was astonished to discover this was Adams’ debut book. When I intially snatched this title off of the shelf due to it’s luring cover and thrill-promising blurb, I had no idea. I certainly would never have made the assumption while reading the title. This one is a heavy hitter for me. I sat and absorbed all 256 pages within an easy 2 hours while remaining stationary in the corner of my couch. I think I may have taken one break to get up for Advil because I was determined not to let my headache pull me away from this one. I was entranced from page 1. Opening lines:
“I CAN’T SEE. I DON’T KNOW WHY I CAN’T SEE.”
-Carolyn Lee Adams, Ruthless
I feel that classifying Ruthless in the YA genre may be selling the book a bit short. I am not saying that it does not meet the criteria or cannot be enjoyed by young adults, I am acknowledging that this one will appeal to fans of adult suspense and thrillers as well. The writing is articulate and clean while avoiding unnecessary embellishments and still managing to evoke strong emotions within the reader. Adams writes with a certain air of someone who is very seasoned and comfortable behind the pen. She also happens to convey the confidence that can only be found when an author is very familiar with their topic, or as we often say, has done their “homework”.
Our protagonist is Ruth, we soon learn is a bit of a snot. She has lived a somewhat privileged life that at first glimpse makes it easy to dislike her to a degree. However, as our story unfolds, we soon come to accept that she has also faced her own share of hardships and there is more to her than what appears on the surface. It took a while for me to determine exactly how I felt about Ruth. But this internal struggle and continuous judging did wonders for humanizing her and making her viable. In the end, she won my affection, and I was easily terrified for her and even proud of her during certain moments.
The antagonist is a nasty fella by the name of Jerry T Balls. Referring to Jerry as nasty is actually a pretty large understatement. He is a nightmare, the nightmare. He is that thing that lurks in the shadows and we pray our children never meet. Jerry quickly climbed the ranks of villains and bad guys in my book. But do not be fooled. This is not the sort of villain you love to hate. You simply hate him with every fiber of your being. If you do not, then it is time to take a good look at yourself. There is no sympathy to be hard for this filthy asshole. I will let you read the actual book to understand just how despicable he is.
The plot for this one is very familiar. We have a young girl who has escaped her captor and now fights to survive. That however, is where the similarities end. Perhaps what makes Ruthless so engaging and suspenseful is that we are exposed to the story of not only our protagonist but our antagonist as well. The author has cleverly revealed how this monster known as Jerry came into existence, slowly uncovering the events that led to Ruth’s capture and potential demise. Told through an alternating narration of the first person point of view of Ruth and well-timed flashbacks of both Jerry and Ruth’s past, this is an intriguing perspective that unfolds effortlessly and flawlessly into a terrifying race to the bitter end that is packed with emotion.
“Hopelessness is not an emotion to be indulged. On the heels of hopelessness comes defeat, and even though everything seems pointless and impossible, I still want to win.”
― Carolyn Lee Adams,
While I felt a slight amount of disappointment with the ending, I am also able to easily entertain the notion that the ending I desired may have felt cliché, cheapening the entire experience. So I am still able to appreciate the author’s decision on this conclusion. This is an easy 4 stars for me, as I find myself still reflecting on the absolute originality and ingenuousness of the author’s ability to expose the reader to the minds of both the hunter and the hunted, adding a new level of thrill and suspense to the reader’s experience. For myself, this was a roller coaster, and I was sad to see it end. Pushing this one on all fans of YA and adult thrillers.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐