Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Review published on May 22, 2017.

This novel explores what happens when your past comes back to haunt you. In Are you Sleeping, the main character, Josie, finds out and it is not a pleasant experience for her. Josie has spent the last ten years hiding from her past and trying to reinvent a new life for herself, going so far as to change her name and  estrange herself from her twin sister Laine, and also travelling far and wide for five years before choosing to settle in New York and meeting her boyfriend Caleb. He knows nothing of her past or that her father was murdered or that she was brought up by her aunt after her mum couldn’t cope and ran off to join a cult. Josie doesn’t want Caleb to find out anything that has happened to her, but a problem arises when investigative reporter Poppy Parnell decides to create a series of podcasts reopening the investigation into her father’s death. These podcasts also coincide with Josie’s mum’s suicide, which forces her to go back to her old life and be reunited with Aunt A and her cousin Ellen, whose character is further explored when hearing about Josie’s life when she was younger and the events leading up to her leaving her old life behind in an attempt to start again.

These podcasts gain a lot of attention from the general public, who proceed to post comments and to talk about the case and offer suggestions as to who might have committed the crime. It is these podcasts that sadly lead to the suicide of Josie’s mum as she cannot cope or deal with what she is hearing and seeing on social media. I felt that using podcasts as a theme to base the book around was quite a novel and ingenious idea given how social media seems to be taking over everyone’s lives. I can imagine that this format and theme would also make reading more appealing to those who are not normally readers, since it would give them something to latch onto and should capture their interest.

The story is told as a narrative, interspersed with the podcasts, excerpts from reddit, tweets and comments from the public. This style gives the book a very modern and up-to-date feel.

Are You Sleeping is an engaging psychological thriller that is also very addictive and fast paced. I read it in a couple of evenings in bed and kept saying to myself “one more chapter and I will put it down” as I wanted to read on for more. It was the sort of book that once it had sucked you in, you couldn’t let go.

By the end of the book, the reader is able to find out the truth as to who killed Chuck Buhrman, unless they have already guessed the truth for themselves while reading the book.

This book also shows us that, in a modern society where technology and social media are all around us, human beings are able to seek entertainment from other people’s traumatic events, and that nothing is really private or sacred when it is being splashed around the internet and various social media platforms.

Those with an interest in psychological thrillers, particularly fans of The Girl Before and In a Dark, Dark Wood, will enjoy this book.

Helen Appleby 4/3

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
Macmillan 9781509843022 hbk Aug 2017


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