REVIEW: Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

In brief: Kit used to be friends with Diane until Diane’s confession ripped them apart. Now so close to the top of her profession, the last thing Kit needs is Diane to reappear in her life…

The good: It’s bold, raw, honest and utterly addictive.

The not-so-good: Some of the reactions of the characters aren’t what you would expect…

Why I chose it: Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 341

Publisher: Picador (Pan Macmillan)

Setting: America

Rating: 9 out of 10

Megan Abbott falls into the far too long list of authors I’ve been meaning to read, but never got around to it. I should know by now that the list will contain a multitude of great authors and I will kick myself for not reading them earlier. Megan Abbott is definitely one of those authors as Give Me Your Hand is one of the creepiest, unsettling psychological thrillers I’ve ever read. I loved every moment of this story and couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. It’s not your run of the mill thriller as the contents are different and emotions felt by the reader are magnified.

Give Me Your Hand focuses on Kit, a post-doctoral research scientist in a lab that isn’t the fanciest, but has one of the best scientists in the land working there, Dr Severin. Kit is thisclose to being part of Dr Severin’s team for a research project into premenstrual dysphoric disorder, an extreme form of PMS. This could be Kit’s major career breakthrough. Kit has managed to do better than anyone else from her small town – finishing high school and winning a scholarship to a better college before studying further. Some of that determination is thanks to a friend from high school, Diane. The pair pushed each other to be their best until Diane confessed a deep secret to Kit, ending their friendship. Now Diane reappears in Kit’s life, poached from a fancy lab just before Dr Severin’s big announcement. This sends the current scientists into a frenzy, speculating on Diane’s role on the project. Kit says something while drunk and then an accident occurs. Diane helps Kit out, but now Kit has a secret too that could ruin her career. It all snowballs from there…

This thriller is fantastically creepy as the reader gets inside Kit’s head, experiencing her thoughts, doubts and worries. It flicks back and forth between Kit and Diane in the current day and in their high school years, gradually revealing the secrets of each woman. There is just enough intrigue and gasp-worthy moments to keep the reader justifying ‘just one more chapter’. Abbott writes a fast paced plot and I never felt that I as the reader was being pushed or hurried past anything. Every single detail is carefully thought out and important. Abbott builds up enough tension that I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more – but I was completely wrong! The finale just builds and builds and while the main threads are brought to a close, there is enough ambiguity to make you wonder at the motivations and lengths some characters will go to just to get what they want. This is scary science to the extreme!

The science setting of the novel is enough thing that really pulled me in. You just don’t read thrillers set in a lab that don’t have ghosts and/or monsters. Megan Abbott has really done her research here and it shows in the authenticity of the lab – the sniping, the desperation to get grants and the constant longing for more money, better equipment. She then takes this and turns things really dark, as the former friendship between Kit and Diane grows, then retreats. It’s a slightly eerie novel, but the intensity is huge. Megan Abbott writes a brilliant, gripping thriller and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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