Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Review | Don't Get Involved by F J Curlew

Published on October 6, 2019

Don't Get Involved is the second book I have read by F J Curlew having enjoyed her last novel, Dan Knew, back in 2017. As much as I liked Dan Knew, Don't Get Involved grabbed my attention more and I found it very difficult to put down, reading it in one sitting. It's a dark and often tense novel, written in a manner that I found very involving with short and snappy sentences charged with detail that drew me right in to the culture of Kyiv.

The narrative is told in alternating seasons, to begin with split between Summer and Winter. In the Winter, we meet the street kids, Dima, Sasha and Alyona, and we meet Leonid, the hitman who is after them. Having found a bag full of cocaine, the street kids don't know what to do with it but when they are discovered and Dima feels the threat of the people looking for them, they head on the run, where life is only going to get even more dangerous for the three of them. In the Summer, we meet Nadia who has arrived in Ukraine for her own secretive reasons and who wants to help, but doesn't know what she is getting herself into. She meets the mysterious Artem, who seems very protective of her straight away and they grow closer. Their story is another fascinating aspect to the novel.

One thing I particularly loved about Don't Get Involved was the way the author described every setting to build up such a vivid picture in my mind so I could picture every moment with ease. The author writes very atmospherically and her depiction of Ukraine came to life on the pages thanks to an illustrative writing style that made the bars, the food, the sights and the pure tension shine through. I found myself so engrossed in not only the stories of the street kids and Nadia, but also the Ukraine setting and the danger lurking within the streets.

This book was very tense! As danger grew close, the book stole my breath at times as I was lured in to a level where I was that engrossed in the book I was forgetting to breathe. I found it very compelling. The lives of Dima, Sasha and Alyona were fascinating, the struggles they were going through but also the choices they had made and just their feelings towards their safety and looking after each other. The love they shared was pure but also dangerous, as trying to protect each other's lives whilst not getting caught was a challenge. The bond between them was interesting and I found that the author developed each of their characters well during the course of the novel. Dima was more of the leader, and I suppose the main character, but it didn't stop me learning about and growing to care for the others.

Nadia's part to the book I really enjoyed. I was eager to learn more about her and the past that had drawn her to Ukraine. I was also very wary of Artem from the beginning and found it compelling seeing their friendship grow. Nadia's part in this book seemed, to begin with, quite contrasting with the street kids and a little bit like it didn't belong, which was at times confusing until the compassion she shows shone through and her role became clear. There was some light to the shade in Don't Get Involved, often through the chapters Nadia was involved in, and though this was at times an incredibly dark novel, it wasn't too grim.

Overall I was hooked on Don't Get Involved. It's the first book I have read in a while after a bad reading slump but it has definitely brought back my interest in reading whilst also setting a high bar for future books.


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