Review: We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu

Premise

Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles away from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a strange accident, and in the months since, his friends and family have struggled to make sense of it. But Link’s close friend Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. And what’s more, someone claiming to be Link has been contacting her, warning Noemi to stay out of the forest.

As these secrets become too heavy for Noemi to shoulder on her own, she turns to Jonas, her new housemate, and Amberlyn, Link’s younger sister. All three are trying to find their place—and together, they start to unravel the truth: about themselves, about the world, and about what happened to Link.

My review – spoiler free

When starting this book the first thing that catches your attention is the writing. Especially for a debut novel, the writing in We Were Restless Things is exceptionally good. The way Nagamatsu sets a scene and describes the world is very impressing. The way Noemi’s dream journal entries were written, was also spot on. It really reads like those parts were written by someone who just woke up from a dream and wants to write down everything they remember from said dream.

In the more fabulism parts of the book, the parts that take place in the forest, the writing is also so atmospherical. It really leaves a lasting impression. However, more towards the middle of the book, we get less parts in the forest, and thus the writing loses its beauty and atmosphere. Which is rather a pity. Don’t get the wrong impression, the writing is still very solid and the way Nagamatsu describes things is still impressing, but the writing does lose a bit of its ‘flair’.

Unlike what is stated in the premise, We Were Restless Things has some different plot lines. The premise really makes you believe this book is all about a weird forest and these characters who try to solve Link’s mysterious death. And the story is about those things, but it often times felt like that was not the main focus of the story. Especially towards the middle of the book the focus was on the lives of the characters and their romantic relationships. That was, once again, a bit of a pity because the fabulism parts of this book made it really stand out from a lot of other books.

Next to that the balance between the different plot lines felt a bit off. At the beginning and the very end of the book, its focus layed on Link’s death and the forest. However, in the middle Nagamatsu seemed to have forgotten she was writing a book with fabulism elements. It would have been nicer to have the fabulism forest parts spread out more throughout the book, instead of having those saturated at the beginning and the end, then the plot would’ve been less weak.

Even though the plot was the weakest element of We Were Restless Things, it was still a page turner. I was picking this book up whenever I could, on the train, at home, or even when I was walking down the pavement. As a reader you just needed to know what would happen next.

Another strong point of this book were the characters. Quite a few books with multiple point of views fall in the trap of writing every pov the same way. However, in We Were Restless Things every character had its distinct voice and set of characteristics.

What made the book absolutely amazing, was the asexual representation. Noemi, one of the main characters, is asexual. Asexuality is a spectrum, so everyone experiences it in another way. However, Noemi’s asexuality was so well written and very relatable to me. I’ve read other reviews stating that the way asexuality is written in this book “doesn’t sit well” with those reviewers. The only thing I can say to that is, that as an own voices reviewer the ace rep in this book is phenomenal and this was the first time ever I really felt seen by a book.

That being said, We Were Restless Things definitely has it flaws and could’ve used an extra round or two of edits, but it still had some solid parts and the best ace rep I’ve ever come across. I ended up giving this book 3.5 stars for those reasons.

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