By Jeremy Hepler
I’m going to be upfront about this – I feel a little conflicted about this book. It’s not bad, the writing is really good, but there were unfortunately some elements I disliked, but we’ll get into that.
Cricket Hunters is told in two parts, alternating between the past and the present to tell the story of Cel and her friends. As teenagers, they formed the Cricket Hunters, hunting down the insects bothering her great-aunt at the request of Cel’s grandmother. Twelve years later, Cel’s husband Parker, a fellow Hunter, disappears. Cel must confront her past and present, including the disappearance of former friend Abby, as the town and Parker’s family turn against her, certain she had something to do with Parker’s disappearance.
Starting with plot, it was good and solid, and I like the way it unfolds through past and present. It’s a technique I love, and Hepler does it well. It’s always interesting to see where these characters start, compared to the present-day situations, and how they grow into their adult selves.
The novel also contained a lot of mystery and tension, especially surrounding the disappearances. However, one twist was a little obvious, as I worked it out quite early on, but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book. The thrill came, really, from seeing how things unfolded more than the actual end result.
Now, the characters. Cel was an interesting character, strong and formidable, and a woman who has been through a hell of a lot. However, it was hard to see why, exactly, she was with Parker, beyond her teenage desire. Parker is, to put it bluntly, a shit. Abusive, cruel, and with absolutely no regard for anyone’s feelings but his own. I wasn’t quite sure if, at points, we were supposed to feel sorry for him or not, but when it was his viewpoint chapters I mostly found myself rolling my eyes.
Some of the more supporting cast could have been written better. The rocky friendship between Abby and Cel could have been explored a bit more. And look, I get it, teenage girls fight over boys, and it does affect friendships, deeply, but this all felt a little like the blame was put on the girls for being naïve, than Parker, for playing them off one another. This wasn’t just in the past chapters but in the present ones, too.
For some other characters outside these three, it felt like there was just a little too much. For some other characters outside these three, it felt like there was just a little too much emphasis on characters’ – especially women’s – weight, and some elements of slut-shaming, somewhat dampening my enjoyment of the novel. Combined with the fact that most of the women’s relationships in the novel are defined by men, and many of the interactions between different women were them fighting over men.
But, and this is important, the ending, in many ways, redeemed the novel. Like I said, I kind of guessed at one particular twist. The other earlier reveal had me trying to work it out right until the end, and it wasn’t what I expected. Both twists were done well, and really made sense considering what had come before. The ending also showed what sort of lengths women need to go to in order to protect themselves, and how men are more than capable of destroying lives through obsession and desire.
Overall, Hepler is clearly a good writer, and though I disliked some elements of the novel, for the most part I really enjoyed it, especially Cel’s character and her relationship with her grandmother, and their use of rituals. It never dipped too much into the more supernatural elements, but remained grounded in reality. I think that worked for the story being told. And the novel also brings up discussions surrounding bigotry and the way people are treated, especially by those who see them as different. I think these are really important discussions to have, and again, were handled in a really good way.
Amazon link for Cricket Hunters
Review by Elle Turpitt
I received an e-copy of this book for review consideration.