‘These Toxic Things’ by Rachel Howzell Hall – not toxic enough for me – abandoned at 53%

We still have a week of January left and this is the second book that I’ve abandoned. I feel like I should be giving an, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ speech. Except it’s not all me this time. Take a look at that cover. See where it says ‘A Thriller’. That right there is the problem. I’m halfway through and I’m not feeling the thrill. Not even a little.

I can see that I should be and that, maybe, the last half of the book will suddenly become tense as the person or persons who are stalking our heroine finally take action beyond sending scary notes and threatening texts. I’ll never know.

The thing I regret about setting this book aside is that I like Rachel Howzell Hall’s writing. When I was a quarter of the way through ‘These Toxic Things’, I was having fun, mainly because of how well Mickie Lambert, the heroine of the story, was described. Her whole experience of life was so different from my own and I don’t know anyone like her yet I found her very credible.

The thing that surprised me most is her relationship with her family. She’s a grown woman, a college graduate a few years into a job with a start-up in an interesting field yet her baseline expectation is that, whatever happens, her family will take care of her. She breaks up with her lover, who is also her boss and she moves back home to mum and dad. She gets threatening messages and thinks she’s being followed, she asks her father and her uncle (OK, they’re cops) to fix it. Her relationship with her family is enviable but also feels juvenile. The degree to which she expects to be protected astonishes me. She seems to have led an incredibly sheltered life. She expects to be loved and she expects things to work out OK in the end.

Mickie has a strong tendency to romanticise her life, to turn everything into a story and usually a story in which everything is sweet and nice and people are good even if bad things do happen. She’s been clever enough to turn this way of looking at the world into a job for herself. She ‘curates’ memories related to objects and places and people and stores them in a digital Memory Box. I know this idea would sell but I hated it as soon as I heard it. It’s a turn-your-life-into-a-Hallmark-movie-with-you-as-the star approach that turns me off.

At the start of the book, I thought this was all good. I assumed that, when the toxic things promised by the title turned up, Mickie’s worldview would be shattered, she’d discover that she’s vulnerable to the nasty things in life and it would either break her or make her stronger. There are some good hints that her family know more than they’re saying and it seems likely that Mickie is being pursued by two dangerous people, at least one of whom is a serial killer.

How can I walk away from all that? Well, because nothing is happening. I’m waiting for Little Red Ridinghood to meet the wolf but the wolf hasn’t shown. And Mickie’s groundless optimism and endless romanticisation alternating with complete panic when under any kind of pressure are beginning to irritate me. I’m starting to wonder if I’d end up cheering the wolf.

I’m six hours and a half hours into the audiobook. There are six more hours to go. I could almost read another whole book in that time. So, it’s bye-bye Mickie. I hope your family can protect you from the monsters when they finally arrive – unless, of course, they are the monsters.

4 thoughts on “‘These Toxic Things’ by Rachel Howzell Hall – not toxic enough for me – abandoned at 53%

    • What a fun question.

      I think the premise was quite interesting but it got swamped by a book that, for me, lacked focus. I’d be happy to read a synopsis to find out what the puzzle was and how it was resolved but I don’t want to spend six hours getting there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps a limitation of audiobooks? That said, I DNF a *lot* of ebooks (a few a week), and I think I’ve only skipped to the final chapter once or twice because I was curious to know how it ended.


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