Mysterious, mystical, and unusual are all words that can be used to describe Sarah Sparrow’s debut novel, A Guide for Murdered Children. Confusing, scattered, and dragging at parts are also words that can be used to describe this novel. I picked up this book as an ARC from NetGalley back in October. I had high hopes, I really did. A story about murdered children who come back to avenge their deaths? Magnificent! Unique! Sure to be incredible!
A Guide for Murdered Children did meet my expectations in many ways. But it also missed the mark in others. Sparrow seems to get distracted from her main point, probably partly due to enormous cast of primary characters. Without warning, you jump from the perspective of Willow, to Lydia, to Annie, back to Willow, to Daniel, and so on and so forth. I lost track of the many characters whose perspective the reader ends up following at some point.
This story has incredible potential. The overarching story shows what happens when a murdered child occupies the body of a recently-deceased adult, resurrecting the adult immediately after death. Together, the adult and child must find and act vengeance on the child’s killer. More narrowly, the story focuses on Willow, an ex-cop, recovering addict, and porter-in-training; Lydia and Daniel, friends turned lovers turned tandem landlords for two murdered siblings; and a multitude of other characters whose stories all intersect with each other. For about 75% of the book, however, you as the reader are given no clue as to how these characters intersect. You’re left reeling as you jump between perspectives, often with hardly a moment’s notice.
I think that if Sparrow had simply chosen a few of her main characters to focus on, A Guide for Murdered Children would have been much more understandable and succinct. At different points in the novel, I caught glimpses of a fantastic storyline, plot points, and direction. Sparrow is definitely a talented writer, and she has an incredibly unique idea in her hands. However, the novel as a whole needs some help. A little nudging and direction from an editor or experienced mentor would do wonders for her storytelling.
While I can only give A Guide for Murdered Children 3/5 stars, I hope Sparrow will continue writing. I look forward to her next novel. While she has much room for improvement, I do believe that her gift for unique stories will be her aid in helping her grow in her storytelling ability.
I received a free digital advance reader’s copy of A Guide for Murdered Children from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.