Close Your Eyes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Feb 2017

Member Reviews

Unfortunately I didn't finish this book, as I couldn't get into it - nothing against the author or book, just not to my personal taste. Thank you for the opportunity to read it.
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*DNF @ 25%* 

Copy kindly received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I hate to DNF a book, but unfortunately in this case, I just wasn't feeling this one. I was very kindly given a review copy through NG and, I think the idea of this book is a really great one, and I'm sure other people will like this. It just wasn't for me. I think thats because of the way its written - the story is told through the form of interviews and chats between friends, and a little bit of what happened at the time. So while this isn't my kind of writing style, I'm sure other people will enjoy this, because the idea of the storyline itself is a good one.
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When I first picked up Close Your Eyes by Nicci Cloke, I didn't know just how complicated and thought-provoking this story was going to be. Nothing is as simple as it looks, and everyone sees things differently.

Close Your Eyes is about a diverse group of friends, how their friendships change over the course of a year, and how those changes lead to one of them picking up a gun and taking it to school. The story is told half in retrospect, after the shooting, with transcripts of interviews with some of the friends, one of the teachers, a psychologist, but also with news and radio reports. Those (we never really know who) who are putting all of this information together also use blog posts, diary entries, and text messages between the friends from before the school shooting, too. And the book is told half in third person from the perspective of a number of friends, of the events leading up to the shooting, as they happen.

What's really clever is the way the book is put together. The third person narration is told in chronological order, from a holiday the six friends went on until after the shooting. The epistolary part of the story almost feels like a jigsaw puzzle; We'll be shown an interview with one of the friends, then something in third person from that friend's perspective (showing the difference in what they say happened and what actually did happen), then next we'll have an interview with a psychologist, who seems to be talking about what we've just read about. For the most part, the interviews with the friends, the text messages, the blog posts, correspond to the third person narration, but everything else, there's nothing that says it's to do with the specific event you just read about, but it very much feels like it is.

You'll have noticed I've not mentioned which friends narrate the story, whose blog posts are used, etc. This is due to spoilers. The narration changes hands as the story progresses; one tells the story for a while, then someone else takes over, and then things change again. So at the beginning of the book, you don't know who will be narrating later, and as the interviews also correspond with the narration - interviews with the friends after the shooting - to say who narrates is also to say who survives. Even though part of the story is being told in retrospect, certain things are only revealed to the reader at certain times, so you never quite know. You're being guided through the story; you've been taken by the hand and are walking down a certain path, a path of the leader's choosing. So, in some ways, there's a mystery aspect to the story.

And, really, there's a mystery aspect to the whole story. You're being led to believe that friend X is the shooter, but while you're being led to believe this, from the way the epistolary side of things is pieced with the narration, it is never actually said that "X was the shooter." So is it X? Everything points to X, but is it too easy to be X? Or is that the point, a double bluff? Because it looks like it's X, we may doubt it is X, have us guessing it might be someone else... and then end up being X anyway? It was very, very clever. There were a couple of days in the middle of reading Close Your Eyes I was unable to read for, but I was still thinking about the story. I thought about where I was in the story, and about what I had read so far. I was thinking it was far too easy to be X - I've read Cloke's previous novel, Follow Me Back, and knew how good Cloke was at twists and the unexpected - and then something struck me. Something a psychologist said. It seemed at the time to be talking about X, but I then realised it's quite possible what the psychologist was talking about could refer to Y! From then on, I was convinced it was Y, and I thought myself so clever as little things I remembered from what I'd previously read, and what followed when I could read again all seemed to fit my theory. But it turned out I was completely wrong. As I said above, nothing is as simple as it seems.

As clever as Close Your Eyes is, it is also heartbreaking. There are things about the past of a number of characters' pasts that are just unimaginable. Close Your Eyes really plays on your emotions, because you end up really feeling for those it would be easy to tar with the "bad" brush, and being really bloody upset with those who are "innocent". Though it depends on how you define innocent, and how you define bad. Because what this book is really about is bullying, and the consequences - the effects - of your actions, no matter how small. What is bullying, anyway? Teasing someone a little here, a laugh at someone's expense there - just what friends do, right? There's no malice in it, and definitely no harm. But is there? We don't know what people have been through, we don't know their pasts, so we don't know how that will affect them. And, as an outsider, we don't really know what is going through the head of the one making the joke, or the one laughing. And then there's perspectives and the truth; you can have A think B is just shy, that there's nothing weird about them being quiet and observant, but then C can think B is creepy the way they watch everything, notice everything, plotting maybe, and then you can have the real reasons B is like they are. And if you're C who feels a little uneasy around B, not knowing about B's past? Even though they are your friend, what might you do? There are a lot of people who do a lot of bad things, some small, some huge. They may not have a gun in their hand, they may not be taking life, but they're definitely not innocent. And you never know how much can be too much for some one, nor how someone who it's too much for will react. So, like the description above says, who is truly responsible? It's really very thought provoking.

There's one niggle I had with this book. Once we get to the shooting and we're inside the shooter's head, it is very clear that this person is in need of help. I couldn't say for sure that they have a mental illness, because I'm not a doctor, but they definitely need counselling. It does feel like they have a problem, though, that they could potentially have a mental illness - and there are even interviews with a psychologist who talks about the shooter's past and what that could mean to them. And that made me feel a little uneasy. When things like this happen - when someone picks up a gun and goes on a shooting rampage - the state of their mental health is questioned, or any mental illness they have come to light. I worry that this story may be adding to that idea the news perpetuates when things like this happen, that those with mental illness are dangerous, and therefore upholding the stigma surrounding mental illness. I don't know, I simply don't know enough to be sure that that's what this book is doing. At the same time, for the shooter to not need help, their whole backstory would need to change, because they need help long before they pick up a gun. I don't know what the answer is here, but it did make me feel a little uncomfortable.

Still, Close Your Eyes is a very clever, very thought-provoking, and very upsetting novel. The scenes when the shooting is taking place, the accounts of it - even though I knew it had already happened and was over - it was just terrifying. I felt for the shooter, but I also feared them. Close Your Eyes has so many layers to it, and is so complex; this is more than just a school shooting with a whodunnit element, this is a story about people, how we can never really know people, and a book, I feel, promotes kindness and compassion. What Cloke has done with this story, with these characters... it's pretty incredible.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the eProof.
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This story is incredibly fast-paced. It's hard to put it down, it would be like pausing a movie during the most climactic moment, the whole time.

The foreshadowing of the plot twist was done so brilliantly that you're left wondering how you didn't see it coming. I've always admired subtle foreshadowing, it's not easy to accomplish. 

All in all a great read.
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It wasn't till I opened the first page of this book that I realized it was going to be a school shooting novel. I, however, am a fan of the school shooting novels as I find them so powerful and emotive as I am the type of person who would to reach out to the shooter and befriend them before things turned bad to the point of no return. Close Your Eyes tells the story of a group of friends at Southfield High School. There are the twins Aisha and Ash, Remy, Gemma, Elise, and Eli. Elise and Eli are the last two to join their group of friends, and things seem to be going well except this last few months, their group of friends have been separating and spending time in twos or elsewhere and strange things have been happening. Each of the friends is going through their problems, but we discover that a couple of them, their problems run deeper than anyone ever realized.  We have Aisha who has been spending a lot of time lately partying and sneaking out, only to have her life exposed to a Gossip Girl sort of blog. Eli's sister had a breakdown at their old school which forced them to move, and Elise's family went through a similar situation to Eli's which makes sense to why the pair connected. I have to admit the last few chapters of this book; I did not see that coming. When the truth was revealed, I have to say part of me was blown away, but the other part of me could see how everything had eventually built up to this moment and showed what a tipping of the scales could do as desperation , injustice and a feeling like we have nothing can lose can push us all into a spiralling oblivion. Just think - what would you do if you had nothing to lose and the only consequence was death which you knew was coming anyway.Would you be like one of the characters in this book and either commit suicide or would you be like the other and shoot up the school? Close Your Eyes by Nicci Cloke was a thought-provoking, and emotional rollercoaster of a YA read.
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I definitely enjoyed the formatting of this novel, with the combination of interviews and prose. 
It positioned me perfectly for the plot twists,  which I didn't see coming until it was revealed. 
I did struggle to connect to the characters totally,  which may have been due to the switching points of view (or just the fact that I'm past high school now). 
I found it interesting that despite knowing the outcome of the story straight up, I was still horrified and shocked by it. 
All in all I think this is an important read showing the effects and aftershocks of school shootings, and the damage that bullying can cause. 
A powerful message hidden in an accessible story.
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Struggled to get into this book. I will give it another chance at a future date but for now, I had to DNF.
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I have read a few books that have tackled the topic of a school shooting, notably Jodi Picoult’s 19 Minutes. However, these books never seem to be aimed at a younger audience who arguably should be exposed to books about this topic to make them aware of what to do and more importantly the consequences of actions.

Close Your Eyes focuses on the dynamics of friendship and how we may think we know people but can we ever truly know someone? Told in a quirky way (blog posts, police interviews, group messages and narrative) it is a really easy book to read which considering its main topic is pretty impressive. My one bug bear about Close Your Eyes is during the beginning section when Of Mice and Men is said to have 20+ chapters. As a high school teaching assistant who has worked with students studying this book I know it doesn’t have that many chapters. It is a forgivable error…but only just.

Close Your Eyes is a really good story that deals with a complicated topic but it is essential reading for young adults.

Close Your Eyes by Nicci Cloke is available now.

For more information regarding Nicci Cloke (@niccicloke) please visit www.niccicloke.com.

For more information regarding Bonnier Zaffre Books (@BonnierZaffre) please visit their Twitter page.

For more information regarding Hot Key Books (@HotKeyBooks) please visit www.hotkeybooks.com.
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-Just after completing the book.-

I literally don't know what to say. I just spent a good amount of time crying at the end of this book as the feelings of shock and sadness are overwhelming. I am so glad that my favourite character is alive though. 
I hope that there is like a short companion novel though, like maybe 3 years on, after GCSE's and A-Levels where the characters are going to uni and we can find out a little more.
Please Nicci? Please?

Some time later-

Okay, I am ready to give a full review now. I am going to start off by saying that I did receive the book for free to review as an arc, but this in no way effects my opinion of it or my review. All thoughts are my own.

This book follows a group of school friends; Aisha, Gemma, Remy, Elijah, Elise and Ash (probably someone else but I am pretty sure that is it). It is set in the U.K., in a school in the South-West of England called Southfield High, where the group is about to do their GCSE's, and are in their final year before sixth form/college. 

We are told at the beginning of the book that there is a shooting and then we backtrack to the beginning of the year when things begin to change between the group.

This book deals with such a serious topic and so easily could have been done wrong, however Cloke made the novel so thoughtful and engaging and realistic. She was also able to add so much to the plot in terms of how everyone was feeling and thinking. The struggle of trying to decide your future, friendship and dating issues are all something that teens go through and she made the book so relatable.

I really loved this book. It gave me huge range of emotions and I really got deep into the story. I definitely cried and locked my Kobo and unlocked it a lot because I struggled to deal with my emotions.

I was really surprised this was a debut novel, and Nicci Cloke is really one to watch because if all of her books are like that, she will be in my top 3 with Jandy Nelson and Nicola Yoon.

I am most definitely gushing but I am really loved this book. I would recommend it to everyone
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This brutal & quite original story about a school shooting, deals with the repercussions of any sort of bullying. The story focuses on the events that lead to the horrific incident using transcripts, interviews, online conversations etc which adds to the drama & thriller aspect. Starting with the emergency call captures your attention from the very beginning.

At the center of the story is a group of 6 teens with one of them being the quiet "weird" one, Elijah, who you don't know at the beginning if he is shooter or victim. Their POVs tell us the story until that devastating curve ball that just "whoosh" hits you in the chest and you are numb till you realize what that even bigger curve ball is!

The book deals with the questions of when behavior becomes a type of bullying, violent, when should or if we should get involved? Where does privacy end and genuine concern begin/ Are their signs of the oncoming tragedy, or is it all 20/20 hindsight?

As the web of the group's interaction untangles, you get the feel for each one's role & start having your own theories of what is to come and opinions of fault. I believe the POVs of everyone involved were done very well, with each having the appropriate voice.

The accounts during the shooting, especially of the shooter, crank the intensity really high, and your heart is in the throat until the end. A thrilling captivating read which will spark many discussions of its themes.
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Close Your Eyes was everything I expected to be, and more. It was tense, fast-paced, and raw. I loved the different style of narrative - the transcripts from 999 calls, prose, police interrogations, diary entries... I thought it was pretty unique and fit very well with the story. I was continually guessing what had happened, and didn't want to stop reading, because I needed to know what had happened. I really liked the characters, although I feel like maybe we didn't get the clearest insight into who they all were because of the style. I only felt like I knew Elise, Elijah and maybe Ash, but not the other characters, especially not Remy. Also, I thought the ending was slightly too rushed, although because the police interrogations throughout the novel were set after the event, I guess that's okay. 

Overall, a very addicting read.
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This story is horrifying.  It is the stuff that nightmares are made of (I had to follow it with a fluffy romance just so I could sleep).  While I'm certainly showing my appreciation of the story, and the bravado of the author in tackling this tricky content, I really hated this story.  Then again, I doubt that this, as a story, is one that will be loved (although it will no doubt be talked about).

It really kicked a lot of goals for me, and while it did work, if I am honest I was never completely converted.  The narration, which constantly zipped in and out of time and moved between various writing forms, was disjointed and will probably leave many readers confused.  I persisted, and things seem to sort themselves out, but many YA readers may not persevere, which is a tremendous shame.  I found the cast of characters tricky to keep track of, and while this kind of reflects the chaos the book depicts, it was a little annoying.

That said, this is a worthwhile read and a story that deserves to provoke meaningful discussions on the topic of bullying and gun violence in schools.
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This was such an interesting read. I love the way that it was set out, so that the even though we knew from the start what was going to happen, it wasn't revealed until later exactly who was involved and how it would unfold. It was so fascinating to be introduced to the characters and get to know them in the time leading up to the event so we could see what drove the events to happen. 

It was told in several different ways as well, There were twitter feeds and blog posts were a good way to show what was going on and the way that the people both inside and outside the school would react. 

The I was quite excited by the twists as well. It was a good way to separate this book from others with the same topic.
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It feels slightly wrong to say I am drawn to books about school shootings but I have read quite a few over the years and always find it interesting to get into the mindset of such complex characters.
What made this book so gripping and fast to read was the fact it features interviews and text messages and many other ways to piece the story together and it features one hell of a twist which I didn't see coming.
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This was an engaging read with an interesting structure, though I found the twist quite predictable (though if I hadn't known there would be a twist, I would probably have been more surprised by it). Some characters were better drawn than others - Gemma, Elijah and the twins were written well, but I found Elise and Remy to be lacking - especially as most of Elise's characterisation was shoved into the second half of the novel (presumably so Elijah would be the focus of the first half and to make the twist more surprising). Overall I found this to be a decent read, easy and quick with a lots of drama, but nothing particularly stood out beyond the twist for me.
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I liked the way this was told, with the alternating styles of each chapter - interviews, IM logs, diaries, present-day narration. It was fun to piece together everything that happened and to see the reasons behind everything.

 
Spoiler



The twist that the shooter was actually Elise and not Elijah was one I did not in a million years see coming! It's set up so perfectly to be him from the start!

I wish Elise's brother hadn't been so useless though... if he'd simply backed up his own sister instead of letting the bullies get away with it, none of this would have happened. His own sister, man. Sigh.
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Close Your Eyes opens with the transcript of a 999 (emergency services) call made by a panicked teacher reporting a shooting, this packs a punch immediately setting the tone for the rest of the book, fostering an immediate sense of dread. What stands out the most about Close Your Eyes is how cleverly it is structured to maximise tension. From the very first page you know what will happen, it's the why that keeps you reading. Short chapters make it incredibly easy to keep reading, this is definitely one of those books that you won't want to put down until you turn the last page.

The use of interviews along with  chat logs and journal and blog extracts makes it feel as if you are reading the results of an investigation. Chapters of more traditional, third person narrative connecting the 'evidence' tie the story together, giving added insight and compensating for those whose testimony's are absent.

The focus is on a group of six friends, with the first half of the book examining the months leading  up to the shooting, using hindsight to look at 'warning signs'. It is a high stress period of time; covering February up to the shooting. This also happens to be their last year of secondary school with GCSE exams looming and the pressures of what comes next adding to the tension. Delving in to the lives of the six friends, we get insight into their backgrounds, the issues they face, and their relationships.

We do get to know some characters a little better than others, largely due to the fact that only some of the characters are interviewed over the course of the book. This keeps you guessing about whether certain characters even survive, it doesn't stop you caring about them though. Each of the characters have a distinct voice, with their own worries and personalities. They were also all relatable in some way, and at times Close Your Eyes had me remembering my own time in secondary school at that age. Familiar topics such as bullying, exam stress and anxiety about the future are all addressed over the course of this book and they are all handled in a way that feel authentic.

Cyber bullying is also a major theme throughout this Close Your Eyes, with it looking at several of the ways that the internet and social media can be used to torment people. Also addressed is how much easier it is to be cruel online, where you can have a certain degree of anonymity and how on the receiving end, the harassment can feel inescapable.

This book is a powerful read, and important, common issues are handled skillfully. Keeping its cards close to its chest, and you'll definitely find Close Your Eyes difficult to put down. I was gripped to the very last sentence. Haunting and tragic, this is a book that packs an emotional punch and has really stayed with me. I gave Close Your Eyes 4.5 stars.
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I don’t honestly know how I feel about this book. I didn’t like any of the characters even though the only reason I read this book was because one of the main characters has my name and I didn’t like how the style of the novel dragged out the mystery of the story. The book twist at the end was pretty predictable. The thing I don’t get is the way the book is written presents the story as a bunch of friends who fall apart because they really shouldn’t be friends in the first place and all of them are really annoying and unlikable and yet it actually has an important message about how you treat people.
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I absolutely adored this book. I went through it in all but one sitting and couldn't put it down.  The characters are believable and compelling and I genuinely felt for each of them. I loved the use of varying writing styles to allow a wider story to be told and more information to be given without it feeling like it was being shoe horned in.
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Excellent read with a different kind of presentation in how the story is told format wise that I felt really worked. It was like you were observing this story transpire in the news, which sadly does happen all too frequently these days. I enjoyed the characters and loved the tension that really held this one together. 4.5 stars, rounded up to five.
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