When a building collapses around five teenagers and they just barely escape they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves?
And Then There Were Four begins with a murder attempt, and that pretty much sets the tone for the book. The plot is that these teens are being targeted by their own parents (various reasons for each) – which, in my opinion need not have been given away by the blurb, but oh well! The four surviving teens band together to figure out the why and how of the attempt on their lives, and how they can protect themselves against further attacks. We are given two POV in a diverse set of characters, Saralinda and Caleb, with the former in first person narrative and the latter in second person narrative.
Firstly, I want to say that the plot is certainly intriguing and in the first half of the book, with so much unknown variables, the stakes were high. But as the book progressed, it felt like the tension seeped out of the text and was shifting focus towards romance (why would you have romance in the middle of running for your lives?) and moving towards a climax that kind of plateaued out. There is mystery, sure, and figuring out the motives of the parents was enough to keep you hanging in there, but I place the blame of my not enjoying it fully on the way it is written.
Saralinda’s first person POV comes across more like a preteen writing in her diary with a lot! of! emphasis! on the mundane. She comes across as extremely childish which I can partly understand due to her closeted life, but cannot condone when in the other POV she sounds pretty mature and holds her own. Of course, the other POV belongs to Caleb, who likes her, so maybe that changes how she is presented. His POV was strange to read through, mainly because it is in second person, which is quite rare enough in most YA books that it is unnerving at first. Coupled with that, his (possible) mental illness at first felt the reason for the odd second person narrative but then in the other POV he talks so much like a single person that it made no sense to have his narrative in second person. Still, between the two, the secondary characters Kenyon and Evangeline are fleshed out enough to have their own arcs.
As for diversity, with the exception of Kenyon, all characters are POC, and with Saralinda’s disability and Evan’s bi(or pan)sexuality, it is inter-sectional. On that aspect, I felt the rep was good. But as for the mental illness, which actually is the backbone of the plot, I felt the rep was calling upon too frequently used stereotypes – like Dissociate Identity Disorders patients having sociopathic tendencies or an ‘evil’ alter (which is what Caleb believes). Also, considering that there is manipulation thrown into the mix, it would have been good to have at least one positive rep for mental illness.
Finally, I would like to say I was conflicted about what to rate this book as. From a plot and diversity perspective, it checks the boxes. But the writing doesn’t lend to an enjoyable reading experience (which I qualify as higher priority) so I brought it down to a 3.5 star rating.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Dial Books, via Netgalley.