Review: Carousel by Brendan Ritchie

Review: Carousel by Brendan RitchieCarousel by Brendan Ritchie
(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)
Published by Fremantle Press on June 1st 2015
Genres: Fiction, Friendship, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

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Nox is an arts graduate wondering what to do with his life. Taylor and Lizzy are famous indie musicians, and Rocky works the checkouts at Target. When they find themselves trapped in a giant mall, they eat fast food, watch bad TV and wait for the mess to be sorted. But when days turn to weeks, a sense of menace grows.

Carousel is one of those books which is eerie and so very creepy because of how real it feels. For Nox, Lizzy, Taylor and Rocky – a routine trip to the shops ended in a nightmare none of them ever could have anticipated.

I’ve never spent the night in a shopping centre – never mind been trapped in one along with three complete strangers. Yet as I read Nox’s story it felt like it could be happening to myself or people I know. The description of Carousel vividly reminded me of almost every shopping mall I’ve been to. It brought up images to me of what it would be like to imagine my local centre completely devoid of life and with no way out.

I loved the descriptions of the stores in Carousel. It felt so quintessentially Aussie with the stores being ones I visit routinely and I could perfectly imagine Lizzy’s Dymocks Den or the social lounge they created in JB Hi-Fi. For me the authenticity of the centre (I’ve never been to Carousel but I can pictures it perfectly in my mind) was one of the highlights of the novel. I also liked the author’s style. Blunt and to the point – it fit Nox and felt right for a guy of his age. Also, I loved the lack of romance. Don’t get me wrong, I adore romance novels. But it wasn’t necessary for this book and had there been any romantic plot lines, it would have detracted from the overall story.

Carousel is an interesting novel because in many ways it’s a book where nothing ever happens and yet I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Nox is a writer who is sort of drifting through life. We don’t find too much about his life Before Carousel but we find enough to know that he did need something to happen and make him start living. We also have Lizzy and Taylor, twin Canadian indie singers who, whilst successful, also seem like they needed a shift in perspective.

The plot is very slow moving. We get to experience what life is like for the characters as they adapt to being trapped in the giant shopping centre. Each of them has their own peculiarities and they try to survive as best as they can – be it obsessively checking the doors for chances of freedom or setting up a recording studio yet never recording. They try to make purpose of their lives despite having no clue why they are trapped in Carousel nor if they will ever leave.

But there were times when this book was lacking for me. There were many opportunities for characters to really get emotional but everything was so even keeled. The realisation they were going to have to stay in Carousel was skipped over, as was the aftermath of a particularly tragic incident. I wanted more emotion and passion. And I wanted to know more about the situation. Why were they were trapped in Carousel? Why them? What was happening in the outside world? How did they still have power and other utilities? It was like a zombie apocalypse novel without the zombies. Or the apocalypse. I understand that the not knowing and the mystery did add to the overall dark and compelling story. But I could only take so much. I was desperate to know more about their situation rather than just how the characters themselves were coping.

I’m delighted that there is a sequel because I feel like many of my questions will potentially be answered in Beyond Carousel.

Carousel is a creepy yet compelling debut by a very promising Aussie author. The writing style is blunt and to the point which suits the novel.  It’s dark and mysterious and a book which will keep you hooked right up until the final page.


Many thanks to Fremantle Press for the review copy. 

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