The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson
Del Rey Books
Publication Date: February 1st, 2022
Hardcover. 512 pages.
Del Rey Books
Publication Date: February 1st, 2022
Hardcover. 512 pages.
About The Violence:
"A mysterious plague that causes random bouts of violence is sweeping the nation. Now three generations of women must navigate their chilling new reality in this moving exploration of identity, cycles of abuse, and hope.
Chelsea Martin appears to be the perfect housewife: married to her high school sweetheart, the mother of two daughters, keeper of an immaculate home.
But Chelsea's husband has turned their house into a prison; he has been abusing her for years, cutting off her independence, autonomy, and support. She has nowhere to turn, not even to her narcissistic mother, Patricia, who is more concerned with maintaining the appearance of an ideal family than she is with her daughter's actual well-being. And Chelsea is worried that her daughters will be trapped just as she is--then a mysterious illness sweeps the nation.
Known as The Violence, this illness causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bouts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. But for Chelsea, the chaos and confusion the virus causes is an opportunity--and inspires a plan to liberate herself from her abuser."
The Violence is an intense, utterly captivating, and all too real story of a terrifying plague that has begun to spread across the nation. This is a brutal, intense story following three women as they navigate this new world and do their best to not only survive and stay healthy, but to also look out for their family members. I did not expect this book to hit me as deeply as it did, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book and take away so many incredible lessons and explorations from it. Also, please note content warnings for this book include abuse, violence, harm to children/animals, and some pretty intense, difficult scenes.
The Violence is a very terrifying illness that essentially makes an infected person a sort of ticking time bomb that could go off at any second and violently and mindlessly attack with intent to kill someone around them. There's no real warning signs and there's no way to know when an attack will occur (for the most part!). This sheer unpredictability absolutely terrifies a control-based person like me. I can only imagine how paranoid I would feel anytime I was around anyone because there's no real way to know if someone is infected until the worst happens and they attack someone. There's a weird layer of almost claustrophobia in this idea when considering you could be trapped with someone with The Violence and have no idea until you're stuck and it's too late. Not to mention the fact that you yourself could have it and could end up killing a loved one at any moment.
The story and setting and atmosphere were so well done in this book, but it's truly the characters that took this book to the next level and made me care so much about it. The Violence follows the POV of three generations of women: the grandmother, Patricia; the mother, Chelsea; and the daughter, Ella. The youngest daughter, Brooklyn, is also a part of this journey, but we do not follow her perspective at any point.
Chelsea is an incredible character that has so much intense growth throughout the story that it almost felt hard to keep up, but in a great way. Her journey was beautiful and tragic to watch. I loved getting to know her and slowly follow along as more and more of her true personality emerged and we got to see her strength and even justified anger really come through. Her entire storyline was the wildest of rides for me and I never had any idea what to expect, and I loved that there was a bit of found family involved as well.
Ella is a teenager dealing with a lot of regular teenage things, as well as the fact that she has an abusive father and what appears to be a growing abusive boyfriend who she doesn't really like, but feels stuck with. Ella's growth in this story is incredible. We see Chelsea overcome a lot and go through the most extreme changes in her entire life, but with Ella it felt like a very different victory in seeing her go from being rather indecisive and somewhat passive in her life to realizing that she does have her own strength–and this is very similar to Chelsea's growth, but something about her being a teenager and coming into her own was very powerful to me.
Lastly is Patricia, who starts out as a horribly prickly woman that's hard to be around and gradually–and out of necessity–learns more about herself and her actions, as well as how to be someone else and cope with the realities of the world around her and her family. I think Patricia's growth was somehow some of the most shocking and sudden in some ways, and I really enjoyed getting to slowly uncover her many deeply complex and buried layers that explained how and why she became the person that she is at the start of the story.
I think one of the things that struck me the most with these characters and their journeys is how well Dawson conveyed the 'mind in crisis' mindset, where you end up doing things you never would have expected to make sure you can survive and/or protect loved ones. This is truly a horrific time, and I think Dawson conveyed that terror in an incredibly raw and chilling way–I felt very emotionally moved by this book, whether anger, sadness, fear, etc. at many different points. Every page sometimes felt tough to read, but I also genuinely couldn't look away and lost track of time while reading. I sometimes made myself stop reading because I knew my mind needed a break, and that to me is a sure sign of some crazy good writing when it makes me feel like that in a good way that makes me really think. I really appreciated how Dawson incorporated a post-Covid world dealing with this new virus and how everything from the COVID era also effected this new era, as well as how the traumas only compounded upon one another.
Sometimes you see a plague premise like we have in The Violence and think it might just a be a gory bloodbath of chaos with little real story behind, and although there is definitely an abundance of gore, there is so much meaning in this story that it really felt like a huge gut punch in every sense of the word. This was honestly just so, so good. It was emotional, heartbreaking, unflinchingly honest, and unbelievably relevant. I fell so hard for each of the three main characters we follow and found myself on the edge of my seat rooting for them throughout this entire story.
This was one of those books where I genuinely struggled to put it down and would lose track of time while reading, and that doesn't happen very often these days! Incredible plot and storytelling also fill this book, and I really loved how Dawson incorporated a post-Covid world with a new virus and how everything affected everything, and how the traumas only compound. Easily one of my favorite books I've read this year. Overall, it's an unsurprising five stars from me!
*I received a copy of The Violence courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*