Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
Ever since Ivy Erickson was a child she’s been able to see the exact moment that someone will die. It appears like a glaringly red countdown clock over their heads. That’s why three months ago Ivy knew her best friend Vanessa would die. But what she isn’t prepared for is the way the people around her die.
The complicated events of three months ago culminated in Vanessa being murdered and Ivy finding the body. Now, Ivy is being ostracized by many people in her small community who believe she’s knows who killed Vanessa but is protecting them. Ivy is trying her best to just get through the torment and the bullying as it seems like Ivy’s countdown is on for one month, 27 days, 59 minutes, and two seconds. When another woman goes missing, Ivy knows that before her time is up, she needs to find the murderer.
There were two things the really drove the story in Gardenia. One, the mystery. Kelsey Sutton did a great job of twisting things around to cast shade on several characters. The possibilities were all completely plausible. Two, the countdown clock hanging over Ivy’s head. I kept wondering if Sutton would be so bold as to kill off her main character, her heroine, our narrator by the end of the book. As a reader I kept trying to figure out some kind of loophole that Ivy could jump through to prevent her predicted demise, and I kept coming up blank. No spoilers, so if you want to know, you’ll have to pick up the book!
Besides the relatively quick-paced story, there were of course things that worked better for me than others.
I think because there’s such a constricted timeframe on the story we didn’t really get as much character development as I would have liked. Many of the secondary characters seemed very stock to me. The exceptions would be Ivy’s ex-boyfriend Myers and new-girl-in-school Amanda. Both these characters have, in Myers’ case, deep, sometimes painful history with Ivy, or, in Amanda’s case, are a new element to Ivy’s life and show her a different perspective of herself.
Ivy was also, at times, a difficult character. She is obviously going through a lot. I can’t even imagine the weight and burden upon her shoulders knowing, down to the second, when someone is going to die, let alone knowing when I would die. That’s heavy. It’s always kept her from getting too close to people and opening up. Then just recently Ivy loses one of the few people closest to her when Vanessa is murdered, and to lose that person in such a way is quite devastating. So when Ivy’s attitude appears more blasé than broken, I couldn’t fault her strength of character whatsoever. I questioned her viewpoint of not fighting until the end though. I suppose she’s made some smidgeon of peace with knowing her time is running out, but I didn’t want to see her give in so easily. Slowly, though, she does turn around towards the end, especially when she gets closer to figuring out the murderer.
Overall, Gardenia is a compelling read. The fact that we’re not given much in the way of why Ivy can see the countdown clocks was an interesting choice. Definitely leaves a lot open to speculation.
Sexual content: kissing, references to sex