Cassie Draws the Universe – P.S. Baber

Cassie Harper is a disillusioned high school senior who is daily losing ground in a battle against her own nihilistic inclinations. When a beautiful new girl from California comes to town and attempts to befriend a reluctant Cassie, the two unlikely companions find common ground in a shared sorrow.

Cassie lives with her mother and grandmother in a dilapidated house in a nameless Kansas town, where she is haunted nightly by dreams of a father who died before she was born. Amy Cole has just moved from California, where she recently lost her mother and brother in a car accident. When Amy finally breaks down the walls of Cassie’s self imposed solitude, the girls band together to avoid the common end of all high school students: inexorable assimilation into an increasingly empty and incomprehensible world. But as Amy and Cassie attempt to outrun fate, their pursuit will be cut short by an unexpected adversary, leading Cassie to devise a chilling and unimaginable revenge.

Cassie Draws the Universe is a complex and tragic tale of friendship and betrayal, living and dying, human cruelty, and the terrible price of vengeance.

This book is brutal. Brutally good. Raw, rich, and unexpected. I wasn’t sure what to think going in, having read some of the reviews for it, but from the opening, I was captivated, wanting to know what happened in order to get to the place where the book starts (9 months from now).

This is most definitely not a young adult novel, I never thought it was, but apparently YA has taken over the world so much that some people assume if the main character is a teen, then it must be YA. It was actually refreshing to read an adult novel written about a teenager, and I really enjoyed the philosophical conversations that Cassie has with her new friend Amy, and Amy’s father as well.

There are a lot of these conversations. The dialogue is heavy, yet intelligent and while at times it doesn’t seem as though it has a point, in the end, I think it all does. This is not light reading, but it’s interesting and engaging.

I don’t typically read literary fiction, but this book has a dark core to it which really appeals to me. There are lots of subtle hints, and threads of tension and threat running through it. Every now and then I would think I knew what was coming, but I was never right. These moments of relief never alleviated the underlying sense of unease that seems to be inherent in the novel.

And the climax? It will blow you away. It’s not easy reading at times, but despite this it seemed entirely fitting. I would never have guessed what was coming, yet when it did, it felt like it evolved naturally from all the things that went before. It was beautiful and desperate and sad and weeks after reading it, I am still thinking about it. Still feeling the impact of it.

I actually think I will read this book again, and I don’t often revisit novels. There are so many new ones to read that it seems indulgent to go back and read something twice. This one, I feel like I need to.

If you like a thinkers book, if you like intelligent, dark, literary fiction which doesn’t pull punches then you’ll probably enjoy this book. But I warn you, it is not for everyone. Four stars from me!


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