Friday, February 18, 2022

Review: Trigger by N. Griffin

Today's review hits a book that I wanted the moment I saw the cover and read the blurb. It's a darker read and heads into the thriller direction. I loved that it included chess and an unsure future, where a girl learns to be a survivor. 

Now, after reading this one, I have to say that it is like its name, 'Trigger'. This is not a nice tale but is harsh from beginning to end. It dives into child abuse, not the overly violent kind but every page seeps with it. There's accidental murder of a loved one at the hands of the child as well. This is not a read for sensitive readers.


by N. Griffin
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
YA Thriller
256 pages

MARCH 29th!!!

The Queen’s Gambit meets The Hunger Games in this harrowing young adult thriller about a teen girl whose abusive father teaches her the finer points of chess and hunting for his own sinister ends.

Didi tries her best to be a good girl, but it’s hard to keep track of her father’s rules. When she wins a chess tournament, he’s angry she didn’t win with a better move and makes her run laps around the house. When she runs laps the next day, she has to keep running until she’s faster than the day before. When she’s skilled enough to outshoot him with both a gun and bow and arrow, he grows furious when she won’t then shoot a baby rabbit who crosses their path. And Didi can’t do anything to escape being threatened with the Hurt Stick when she misbehaves.

He’s all she has, he reminds her. They have to be prepared. They have to be prepared to fight the rest of the world, when the world comes to an end. He’s grooming her, to keep her safe. He loves Didi. He does—he says so! And so Didi runs harder; annihilates her opponents in chess; takes down a deer at a dead run. He’s grooming her, after all, to be the best…he says so.



If you're looking for a gentle read, this is not it. There aren't any triggers mentioned with the blurb, but there should be. This one is all about child abuse on a constant level, which hits full throttle on the psychological end as well as a bit on the physical. It includes murder of a loved one at a child's hands. There is nothing fuzzy about this read. 

And, most importantly, it is well done.

Didi has no memory of her mother, only the books she left behind. Didi's not allowed to mention her,  or her father gets very upset. But that's fine because her father takes care of her. He allows her to eat and even buys her favorite foods, when he's in a really good mood. She fears the boxes he brings sometimes, since they hold new hobbies he expects her to master. Like chess. Like hunting. But she's always the best, which is good because he demands it. She needs to be the best, although he hasn't told her why.

The author uses various devices to make this an amazing, grabbing read. It digs to the heart without diving overly deep into thought. It brings across scenes without plunging into heavy descriptions. It centers on Didi, using her thoughts as a child and, later, as a teen, to drive it forward as she experiences various situations. She isn't isolated. She's the best at school, rides the bus, and goes to events sometimes with him and his friends. She even has a loving grandfather. Still, she never asks for help for various reasons...and these hit reality as well as make sense.

The twists and turns in these pages carry impact. They come unexpected and are gut wrenching. The  author knows how to play the emotions and scenes just right. There's nothing overly graphic on the violence end or anything else, but there doesn't have to be. Actually, it almost makes it harsher. That's why this one is definitely not a read for sensitive readers, and even troubled young adults may be worse for wear after reading this. 

I read this one in a single sitting and really am impressed at how well it's woven and written. Still, I was surprised that no one reached out to change things. There were several people in the book, who noticed something wasn't right but remained silent. While this does mirror reality, unfortunately, I was surprised that nothing happened at the school, especially since she went there all the way through until she was fifteen. I've seen social services contacted over much less in various schools in various towns, cities and states, and have a hard time believing that her 'visual' state wouldn't have drawn some questions. But I guess anything is possible.

This is definitely an impactful read and well done. It is worth picking up and diving into.

And here she is...

N. Griffin is the author of The Whole Stupid Way We Are, for which she was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Flying Start Authors of 2013, as well as Just Wreck It All, Smashie McPerter and The Mystery of Room 11, Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop, and Trigger. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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