It’s hard to say what drew me to this novel. Maybe it was the absolutely gorgeous cover art, a little mysterious and hauntingly beautiful. Maybe it was the short, sweet, and compelling summary on Barnes and Noble. Maybe, just maybe, I needed one more item for free shipping. Whatever it was, I went for it.
I pre-ordered Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian mostly on a whim. This is Kurian’s first novel (you can kinda tell when reading) but she has written an abundance of short stories across various magazines. She also has a PhD in social psychology (you can also tell when reading). While it’s true that I was jonesing for some free shipping, the summary is what pulled me in.
Long story short: Chloe Sevre is a freshman at John Adams in Washington D.C. (Not real – I already looked it up.) Chloe is young, enjoys yogalates, getting three course desserts with her girls, and a nasty itch to kill her childhood nemesis she is looking to scratch. As a diagnosed psychopath, she’s participating in a unique clinical study with a renowned psychologist looking to cure, or change, psychopathic behavior. That is until one of the students is brutally murdered on campus and Chloe is forced to rely on her fellow psychopaths. What could go wrong?
Had I known that this was a debut novel, I would have seen the writing on the wall well before it arrived on my doorstep. If you’ve read my Final Girls review or the Winter Counts one, you know that I cringe when handed a debut novel. That’s not to say that these novels weren’t good (they were), it’s just they’re usually not great. This still rings true for this novel.
Kurian gets several things right here. The first is that the idea is completely unique. In a world with a new vampire story around every corner, it was refreshing to get something so different. The timeline worked well, which can often get wonky with multiple narrators. I appreciated that I didn’t need a day-by-day run down and some of the smaller loose ends tied themselves up nicely.
The imaginary university left a good longing in my heart for the college experience. I graduated what feels like forever ago and probably would have loved John Adams. Kurian encapsulates the world of university life/frat life perfectly. I would have loved more description or more time spent on the psychopathic person’s experience at college, where almost everyone is young, dumb, and easily manipulated.
On the other end of the spectrum, the pacing was off. Each of the narrators had their own “side quest” that had absolutely nothing to do with the central plot. Even Chloe’s fascination with killing Will was too far removed from the bigger picture. The character of Andre was either unnecessary or underdeveloped, he seemed like a useful tool to get things moving but didn’t serve a real purpose outside of that.
There were one of two things at play with this novel. Either I wasn’t connecting with the characters because of pure author genius (how can you really connect with a psychopath?) or I wasn’t connecting because the development of the characters wasn’t complete.
I wish Kurian would have held on to this idea until she had a few more novels under her belt. Or, honestly, she could write this again in a few years because I’d love to read it.