Warning: If you have not read “The Bargaining” by Carly Anne West, do not read this review if you want to avoid spoilers. If you don’t mind spoilers or already read the book, feel free to read this!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Bargaining” by Carly Anne West! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“The fact that neither of her parents wants to deal with her is nothing new to Penny. She’s used to being discussed like a problem, a problem her mother has finally passed on to her father. What she hasn’t gotten used to is her stepmother…especially when she finds out that she’ll have to spend the summer with April in the remote woods of Washington to restore a broken-down old house.
Set deep in a dense forest, the old Carver House is filled with abandoned antique furniture, rich architectural details, and its own chilling past. The only respite Penny can find away from April’s renovations is in Miller, the young guy who runs the local general store. He’s her only chance at a normal, and enjoyable, summer.
But Miller has his own connection to the Carver House, and it’s one that goes beyond the mysterious tapping Penny hears at her window, the handprints she finds smudging the glass panes, and the visions of children who beckon Penny to follow them into the dark woods. Miller’s past just might threaten to become the terror of Penny’s future….”
I found the plotline of the book to be, overall, a bit confusing to follow. I wasn’t sure of what the main plot was until about six chapters into the book, as there were several plotlines such as the missing children in the town surrounding that old, broken down house April and Penny were trying to restore, as well as April and Penny’s initially tense relations with each other and Penny being horrendously cynical about her situation overall, as well as Penny’s past friendship with Rae. After said six chapters, though, it’s pretty clear that investigating the missing children and what exactly went down regarding that situation is the main case.
I understand that the missing children plotline was meant to be scary due to this book supposedly being horror, but I didn’t feel too spooked by the whole plotline. I feel like it could be due to the writing style of the book, or that the main character’s reactions didn’t come off as being terrified enough, but whatever the reason it was that I wasn’t scared by the book, I simply wasn’t scared by the book in the end.
Speaking of investigating the missing children, I thought that main plotline was the most interesting out of all the situations that occurred in the book, but was overshadowed too much by Penny moping over her past with Rae. From how her friendship with Rae is depicted, it doesn’t sound very happy and there were too many flashbacks regarding how toxic this friendship actually was. I feel like it slowed down the pace of the main plot and some flashbacks could be cut out. The whole “toxic friendship” storyline could have been cut out completely, even, as it wasn’t relevant to the rest of the story.
I found Penny to be overly cynical for my tastes as a character. I understand that she is upset about her familial situation, and restoring a house in the middle of nowhere with the surrounding townspeople being hateful of you for almost no good reason probably sucks, but I think that cynicism went a bit overboard at times. I like how she was able to bond a bit with her stepmother April, though, and also get past her cynicism enough to realize that she and her were in danger and get out of there before either of them could die.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about Miller and Penny’s relationship in the book. It felt very tense, and not very romantic if it was meant to be attempted romance. The plot reveal with Miller’s involvement in the missing children was definitely something I wasn’t expecting, either, but overall I felt that Miller and Penny’s relationship was not very well developed and stayed static for most of the book.
Overall, I’d rate this book 2.5 out of 5 stars for the static attempted romance, an overshadowed main plotline, and the overly cynical main character as well as the book just not being scary enough.