Member Reviews

I found this quite an intense read which I found I really enjoyed. Daniel finds himself in a "school" for troubled youths, but what the place really is, how his relationships grow and what happened to and at the school are what the reader follows. Interesting, well-written, disturbing and almost too close to what could be true to be comfortable.

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DNF, sorry. The beginning was really promising, but I got 25% in and it was just too confusing to continue.
The narrator’s voice was alright. It was a touch unconvincing, but I can accept that there are child prodigies who really *might* talk like he does.

However, the kids’ ‘lessons’ seemed self-consciously opaque - they made very little sense, but I never believed the teacher was a real person. I was never intrigued that they seemed to spend the whole lesson recounting random bits of history and staring at pictures — just confused. I kept waiting for a mystery or a pattern to present itself, but none eventuated; we’re just told everything baldly and there doesn’t seem to be a plot.

There’s some discussion about cooking, one of the kids has a meltdown, and the other one stares endlessly into space for half a day. They have a swim and meet a goat. And that’s where I gave up.

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I love a good psychosocial thriller, so I was very excited when I received an ARC. However, I had a hard time getting in to the book and staying engaged. I began to like the book about three quarters of the way through, but it was still not what I expected.

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I really like the description. I thought this book would be packed full of mystery and be really exciting. It wasn’t. It’s actually kind of boring. I had to force myself to finish it. It wasn’t bad towards the end, but by the time I got there I was just ready to finish it. I think the story had potential... but it just didn’t quite meet my expectations.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. Thank you netgalley and the publisher.

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Sarah Hopkins latest book The Subjects delves into the murky world of big pharma and more particularly, the use of drugs to control and modify the behaviour of young offenders. Except for most of its length it is not directly about this. It is only very late in the piece that the big picture is revealed not only to the protagonist but to the reader. Which makes The Subjects a slightly frustrating experience.
Daniel is a young drug dealer who has been caught and is on trial. But instead of going to jail he is diverted to a new “facility” somewhere in the Australian countryside. The facility is ultramodern and filled with young people like himself. While he is told that he can leave at any time, Daniel feels welcomed in this environment and slowly finds himself drawn into life at the facility. This life includes strange daily lessons which require the students to wear electronic headbands and regular therapy sessions with the doctor who runs the facility. Across all of this hangs a sense of foreboding as an older Daniel narrates and intersperses some of his recollection with evidence from a formal inquiry into the work of the centre.
Despite the feeling that things are going to go bad, Daniel’s life in the facility is an improvement of his life before – living with his mother and a string of increasingly abusive boyfriends. He makes a strong group of friends, one of whom he becomes infatuated with. And occasional statements show that he went on to become reasonably successful. But despite this, there are plenty of secrets and trauma associated with the place and the fact that the residents there are some form of guinea pig for something to do with behaviour modification even if they can’t see what it is themselves.
The Subjects is an interesting look at alternative forms of therapy and incarceration. Hopkins has some interesting things to say in the debate around medicating behaviour and makes a strong case for one side of that debate. But it takes way too long for this argument to come into focus. In fact it is only in the last few pages that the full story comes to light. And nothing about the revelations is quite as traumatic as the journey seemed to imply. In fact, just the opposite, making that journey satisfying on one level but frustrating on another.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of #TheSubjects.

I'm kind of dissapointed with this one. Although I went into with no exceptions, being as though I hadn't heard of the book before, I still feel let down. The synopsis sounds sounded great, I was so intrigued by it, but I feel like it could have been better. It had the potential to be a really great book, but it ended up just being okay.
The first half is very slow. It takes a long time to get things moving and I was kind of bored waiting for it to pick up.
Once it did pick up, it was pretty intense with the subject matter. This really makes you think about Big Pharma, and how children are being over medicated.

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Special thanks to Netgalley and Text Publishing Company for sending me the digital advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I had never heard of this book before seeing it on Netgalley, but the synopsis stuck out to me. I’m always down for a good psychological book and that’s what the book seemed to be. The cover also added to my interest. It’s so simple but seems to be complex at the same time. It was definitely a book that seemed like it would be a perfect fit for me.

The plot took a long time to develop and that honestly took me out of the story. I was starting to get bored by the time the book finally started picking up. But the last half of the book was fascinating and it helped me push through to the end.

The one thing I really liked though was how the other covered the issue of overmedicating kids. As a school teacher, I have seen and heard about different cases where kids are thrown on some medication in an attempt to control them. I do believe medication is important but I often think that some people are prescribed something too quickly instead of attempting to tackle the issue first.

I think the main issue I had with this book was the characters. Honestly, there wasn’t really a character that stuck out to me in this book. Daniel, the narrator, was 16 almost 17 but described his surroundings and experiences as though he was an adult. I understand that the narrator is talking about his experiences from the past, but it still made me feel disconnected from the main character. I couldn’t relate to him at all. The plot and idea were so interesting, but there wasn’t a great character to support it.

Because of that, I’m giving the book 2 out of 5 stars. I’m super disappointed since I was looking forward to this book so much, but also I’m happy I read it. As I said, it was an interesting concept, there just needed to be a little bit more.

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This was a style of book that I haven't read before and it drew me in pretty quickly. It is a first person point of view from a teenager who is in an experiment that they did not sign up for. It brings in all the big guns with big pharma. trauma and consent. Daniel has to figure out what he is really here and what this experiment really is.

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The Subjects was different from what I usually read. I have worked with delinquent students. I knew this school was careful in their choices. So many would not work out. I felt bad Daniel did not speak to doctor afterward. It is an interesting idea, but in the real world would it work.
I found the book well written. It was an easy read. I did not see Tod's involvement. I was totally surprised. I would have liked this in a book club. So much to discuss.

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Wow, this book was very intensely written, but I had trouble getting into the characters. The plot took awhile to develop, the book not only tells a story, but leaves you to think. Not sure if I liked it, but it was well written

Thanks NetGalley for the ARC

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‘Anyhow, 176; 63; 16: they were my numbers and here I was.’

Daniel, our narrator, is now 47. He was diagnosed with PTSD at 10, and at age 16 was convicted of selling prescription drugs to his classmates. In court, where a gaol sentence seems inevitable, an intervention results in Daniel being taken to a remote facility where a small group of other gifted (but delinquent) teenagers reside.

‘Light-filled corridors and a jug of lemon water were our introduction to the concept of a benevolent universe.’

But what is this place? The facility is beautiful, the teenagers are treated with respect, and receive an individually tailored education. Each of the teenagers has to negotiate a contract with Dr J, each has their own room, each may be free to leave. But why would they?

We know that Daniel has overcome his past from the outset. We learn more about that past as the novel unfolds. Daniel learns how to manage without the pharmaceutical assistance he had previously been prescribed to deal with a plethora of mental health diagnoses.

‘My decision to follow came not from an instinct to explore, but an instinct not to be left behind.’

But what is this place? Daniel is sure that they are part of an experiment. He learns more about himself, and more about some of the others. He gains some valuable insights into the complexity of humanity.

‘The same strategy, I thought, just a different target. His enemy was the world around him; mine was within.’

This is a challenging novel to read. There are several different issues covered and layers of complex issues to negotiate. How well can science explain difference? How do labels affect perceptions? What influence do pharmaceutical companies have over treatments and why, when we know the limits of institutions, do we still rely on them so heavily?

I found it hard to put this novel down: it took me into an uncomfortable, complex world where thought experiment could replace what could be described as our current pharmaceutical dystopia. Or could it?

‘Time gives us different versions of ourselves.’

Well worth reading.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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This book was not as exciting as I expected it to be. I’m a psychology major so I was hoping for more psychological parts of the experiments and subjects and it was just lacking for me.

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