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BOOK REVIEW: Whisper to Me by Nick Lake

| 2 June 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Whisper to Me by Nick Lake

May 2016
Paperback, £7.99
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli




It feels weird, thinking about you, before I knew you existed. I wonder what you were doing.
I think I like picturing you standing in the wings.
A hero, listening for his line, his cue to enter.
But a tragic hero. A hero betrayed by me.”

So far, 2016 has been a great year for books and Nick Lake did not disappoint with this riveting, wonderful story of mental illness, first love and a mysterious serial killer stalking the dilapidated, seaside town of Oakwood.

Cassie was a normal kid, for most of her life. As far as normal is normal when your father is an ex-Navy SEAL with a temper to boot and your mother is dead. But for most of her life, Cassie did normal things, like go to school, work, and even fancy the wrong kind of boys.

But one day, she makes a discovery. The Houdini Killer, famed for kidnapping and murdering women of a certain profession, has been haunting Oakwood, and one morning Cassie accidentally makes a discovery on the beach that indirectly changes her life forever.

2. I assumed it was a man’s foot in the sneaker. Because of the style, because it was relatively large, I don’t know. That was why I was thinking about Orpheus. But perhaps if it had crossed my mind it might be a woman’s, then I would have thought about that other famous victim of sparagmos: Echo, and the way she was torn to pieces by Pan’s followers, leaving only her voice in the rocks and trees. And if I’d thought about her, then maybe I’d have gotten to voices sooner, and the idea of a murdered woman. And maybe things would have turned out differently, or at least I would have been more prepared for what happened afterward.

It’s there that the voices start. Well, voice, because Cassie only hears the one and is convinced it’s the dead woman’s voice, the voice of the woman whose foot she found on the beach. It’s rude, it’s mean, and it makes Cassie do things she doesn’t want to do: run up and down the stairs fifty times; clean the already spotless kitchen until her fingers are pruned and eyes are sore; think about suicide on an almost daily basis. Threaten her with the untimely deaths of friends and family if Cassie refuses to do what the voice asks.

“He hates you,” said the voice, matter-of-factly. It was quiet now, the voice, and I hardly ever heard it, but occasionally I would get these bursts, like radio catching fragments of speech from the ether. “He wishes you were dead, like your mother.”

Cassie learns to “deal” with the voice. She does what it asks, and in return, the voice won’t threaten or hurt her father and friends (and herself). They come to a compromise, and with therapy and medication, Cassie learns to overpower the voice. But sometimes it pops up when Cassie is at her most vulnerable, and there is nothing she can do but give into it.

Until she meets the boy.

Whisper to Me is written in first and second person, as a long letter. Cassie is writing an apology to us, the boy she fell in love with that summer, in the hopes of being able to explain why she hurt him; why her father freaked; why she disappeared at random times; why, sometimes, the boy would catch her talking to herself. It feels like Cassie is writing this letter as we read, which makes the story even more gripping and difficult to put down. Not only does it deal with schizophrenia in teenagers and other mental illnesses, but there’s also a gripping mystery: the Houdini Killer, and Cassie’s obsession with finding him and stopping him from hurting anyone else.

It’s clear throughout the novel that Cassie’s love for the boy who moved into the apartment above their garage isn’t just a “summer romance”, but something that runs deeper. The voice is quiet around the boy, and Cassie almost feels like a normal teenager, which is all she ever wanted.


Emotions are always associated with colours, aren’t they? Green with envy. Well, when you are in my head you are always there with red: sunlight, warmth, heat.
People are green with envy. Yellow with cowardice. I am red with you.

Nick Lake also writes friendships beautifully. It’s clear to everyone that Paris is the sunshine in Cassie’s and Julie’s lives, the carefree spirit who wants to just live, no matter the cost. Julie, on the other hand, is daring but responsible, always looking after Paris, and the sort of rooted friend that Cassie needs in her life. The three of them are different sides of the same coin, and each one has a secret they do not want to reveal, and it’s done so artfully, so beautifully, that it’s obvious that Nick Lake knows how to write reality well.

Whisper to Me is hard to put down and impossible to forget.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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