You know those books where the tension piles up in your gut? The silences have started to simmer and you’re ready for the grand reveal? That’s how I felt with We Were Restless. Nagamatsu creates this tension and atmosphere, which, unfortunately, ended up leaving me disappointed. Keep reading this book review to find out why We Were Restless didn’t work for me.
Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles away from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a strange accident, and in the months since, his friends and family have struggled to make sense of it. But Link’s close friend Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. And what’s more, someone claiming to be Link has been contacting her, warning Noemi to stay out of the forest.
As these secrets become too heavy for Noemi to shoulder on her own, she turns to Jonas, her new housemate, and Amberlyn, Link’s younger sister. All three are trying to find their place—and together, they start to unravel the truth: about themselves, about the world, and about what happened to Link.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: history of self harm, mentions of suicide
We Were Restless Things almost felt like a bait and switch. Centered on the characters, Nagamatsu’s debut unfurls slowly. At the beginning of the book, I was able to justify the slow pace because of the amount of care Nagamatsu took in creating these characters and their histories. With gorgeous prose, the characters are quirky and flawed, but they also reflect the pieces of ourselves we see in others. And the people others see in ourselves, our lives, and our art.
With on page asexual representation, I was willing to give We Were Restless Things second and third chances. There were elements, like Noemi’s dream journal, which I wasn’t sure where they were going, but the promise of the future enticed me. But as the story progressed, not only did I become a little more frustrated by the lack of action, but also the events that unfolded throughout the last third. I don’t want to spoil the actual plot, but the twists, to me, felt anti-climactic and also confusing?
And so while sitting down to review, I feel incredibly frustrated. Overall, I enjoyed watching the character dynamics unfold. Their relationships explore trust and acceptance. Even towards the end, there were fascinating developments for the characters, but, again, some of these never felt fully explored or resolved. I know that we can’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up in a book, but there were moments where it infused slivers of disappointment.
If you’re a fan of books with intricate character relationships, and enjoy a contemporary with a bit of a supernatural twist (think of something similar to The Devouring Gray, but less scare factor), then We Were Restless Things could be for you. And if you do read it, please let me know because I need to talk to more people about the ending!