Updated: Dec 5, 2021
This week I received the first thirty pages of J.C. Bidonde's debut novel Do You Follow? in return for my first impression of the book. I will admit that the thriller genre is not my first choice when I look for a new book to read, but the opening chapters of this novel appear promising.
From the Publisher:
Alexa lives a sheltered life with her widowed father, feeling stifled by his helicopter parenting. When she secures a marketing job and apartment in New York City―much to her father’s and therapist’s concern―Alexa has high hopes of finally sneaking her way into adulthood. But her newfound freedom is cut short when her estranged twin sister Beth, after a long stint in a psychiatric setting, unexpectedly shows up at the doorstep of her tiny apartment.
Alexa too has spent time at the Weinstein Center. But she’s determined to lead a normal life now and soon begins to date a YouTuber client. According to Beth, something isn’t quite right with Curt, but Alexa shrugs her clingy sister’s warnings off. It’s Beth who’s crazy, after all...
As the sister bond grows strained over Alexa’s relationship and career success, questions mount, and secrets unfold, revealing the wickedly dark shared history of the twin siblings. What exactly happened when the twins were only nine that set this vile trajectory in motion?
Things get more complicated, and one treacherous act threatens everything Alexa has been working toward. It will be on her―and Beth―to claw the way out of this situation.
My First Impression:
Do You Follow? begins at the implied outcome of the story: someone is dead and one of the twin sisters is in police custody for the murder. The plot then cuts back several months to fill the reader in on the events and details that lead to the opening scene. Each chapter alternates between the perspectives of both twins. Although multiperspective has become overused in contemporary fiction, it is quite effective in this instance. The girls' personalities contrast one another so starkly that the switch livens the rhythm of the story. Beth's cynical personality is entertaining to read, and Alexa's meek personality appears to give a more honest telling of the story's action.
The reader also receives clues into a shared, tragic past between the sisters, but that past is yet to be revealed within the first thirty pages. The result of this tragedy is that the girls are psychologically scarred, and it introduces various clinical elements that reminded this reader of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. While it is too early to tell what twist this thriller will take, it is fair to say the author took inspiration from Michaelides' work, and readers of the Silent Patient will feel at home in Do You Follow?
The plot itself takes place in the summer and fall of 2021 and is full of pop culture references that will keep this novel from becoming timeless, along with other cliche elements in the author's writing. However, it is set in an alternate reality where the pandemic is no longer a concern, or at least not in New York City, and that is a welcome feature. Thirty pages were not enough to determine whether or not the slow build in this thriller will be worth it, but it was enough that I will be considering picking up my own copy of Do You Follow in January when it is set to be released.
If you would like to pre-order this book, please do so through one of your local independent book stores or through bookshop.org, an online book retailer with a mission to financially support independent book stores.
Corey D. Evans received an advance excerpt of this book and was not financially compensated for his review.