Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille, a reporter who’s just back from the hospital where she was treated for cutting words into her skin. She gets the assignment to go back to the town where she grew up and cover the murders of two girls whose bodies were discovered without the teeth. As she is confronted with her past, and the family she has been trying to avoid, Camille finds herself in a darker place than she’s been before.
This was a complicated read for me.
I remember thinking that Gone Girl was brilliantly dark and that it was so unique, but Sharp Objects felt like it tried a bit too hard to be cool and dark and gritty, and the women are represented in such a negative way, whether they were a tomboy, a girly girl, a group of older women, Camille’s former classmates. They were all so mean. I also had issues with the portrayal of self-harm – I have no experience with that myself, but it felt romanticized and possibly triggering. I had to take a breather from how intense this book was and pause several times while reading.
I also took issue with the oversexualization of girls in this book, it was… disturbing to read. And a few parts of the book seemed really misogynistic to me – there’s a scene where the main character literally says that if a woman drinks too much and then has intoxicated sex with four men, maybe she just made bad choices, instead of being a victim. But I think that part in particular was to show how mentally f-ed up Camille is. Still I worry about a younger audience reading this and thinking it’s feminism to “take responsibility” for this kind of thing happening.
As the story went on, however, I actually started appreciating it. It’s a book that is supposed to make you uncomfortable and suspicious of everyone, especially of the women, and as you watch the men obliviously speculate if a strange man from out of town showed up and killed these girls, you want to scream STOP BEING NAIVE! After I read that this book is supposed to change up the usual portrayals of women in thrillers (back when it was written, in 2006) by showing them as dark, complicated, evil, this book made a lot more sense to me. And that for sure was super well done. Once I saw the characters that way, I was quite invested in the story.
Everyone in this book needs a psychiatrist.
Trigger warnings: self-harm, murder of girls, death of a sibling, toxic family relationships