Release Date: October 11, 2015
On the counts of underdeveloped characters, a slow-moving plot, and predictable ending, I find The Row by J.R. Johansson guilty as charged.
The Row follows seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett, the daughter of an infamous serial killer who just exhausted all of appeals. Her whole life, Riley believed her father’s innocence… until he admits to the crimes during a visit a few weeks before his scheduled execution. With only days before her father’s death, Riley searches for the truth.
One of The Row’s greatest weaknesses lies in the cast of characters. Riley is a described as a tough girl who survived school without any friends, death threats from neighbors, and numerous trials that repeated the gruesome details of her father’s alleged murders. Riley’s actions, however, suggest otherwise. Riley spills out her father’s biggest secret to the first cute boy she sees (who just so happens to be the police chief’s son), attempts to interfere with a crime scene that could prove her father’s innocence, and agrees to meet people in sketchy places at odd hours of the night. The persona that the author tried to push for Riley never really matched up with her character.
The other characters in the book were cardboard cutouts or extremely underdeveloped to where their motivations made absolutely no sense. Riley’s love interest, Jordan, fell into many young adult cliches. He experienced some traumatic event that he felt responsible, he accepted everything about Riley without question, and had an adorable little brother in tow. The other characters–Riley’s mom, dad, Stacia, and Mr. Masters–were never really developed so I never understood their reactions in certain situations or their motivations at the end.
As for the plot of the book, it moved extremely slow. From the book’s description, I expected fast-paced action with thrilling and heart-stopping moments. I expected Riley to take daring chances in order to prove her father’s innocence. Instead, she spent the first 3/4 of the book taking notes from newspaper articles. This made it really difficult for me to get through majority of the book.
While the action picked up at the end of the book, the ending seemed to come out of nowhere and definitely reminded me of some bad Lifetime movies. Throughout the book, the mystery is never very complex because the author offers very little information about the crimes or any of the characters. At the end the “plot twists” are cliches that would appear in many books of the same genre. If you’ve ever seen a Lifetime movie, think of an ending for any given movie, and you have the end of this book.
One positive aspect of this book were glimpses given of how the crimes psychologically affected Riley’s family, especially after the verdict given after the new crime. I wish the author would have focused more on this than Riley’s lackluster romance or online “detective” skills. Since this book missed the mark for me in many different areas, I give this book two out of five stars.
I recieved The Row from Net Galley for free in exchange for an honedt review.