“I know where I want to go. If only someone thought of giving me a roadmap.”Olivia Bennett- Casually Homicidal
If you love The End Of The F***ing World, then Olivia J. Bennett’s sophomore novel, Casually Homicidal, is the perfect fit for you.
I had the pleasure of being an advanced reader for Casually Homicidal, so I’m excited to share my *spoiler-free* thoughts on it. But before we begin, I think it’s important to learn a little about the author in question. Below, is a snippet of what she wrote about herself:
“I’m a 22-year-old author and college student. My first book, A Cactus In the Valley, made me a teen author back in the day, but now I’m just a regular adult. I’ve always loved indie publishing because I get to be the master of my own universe.”
Personally, I can relate because indie publishing truly does give you the freedom to do whatever you please. Yes it’s more work and sometimes it can be discouraging, but all that matters is that you keep pushing through to create timeless works of art.
Casually Homicidal is definitely one of those timeless works of art.
If you want to see exactly what I’m talking about, then keep reading. And if you want to listen to my review, the podcast episode will be available on April 13th.
In the meantime though, feel free to listen to any of my old podcast episodes by clicking the link on my website or on your streaming platform of choice.
Let’s get into it, shall we!
NOTE: Casually Homicidal won’t be available until May 20th, 2022, but you can preorder it on her website! Feel free to follow her @olivia.j.creates on Instagram and @oliviajcreates on Tik-Tok to stay up to date.
So…what is it about?
Self-diagnosed sociopath, Hendrix Williams spends his last days as a high school senior cutting up small animals in his shed in rural Montana. He works at a frozen yogurt shop with the eccentric Michelle “Arden” Campbell, neck-deep in her own existential angst. The night after graduation, Arden shows up outside Hendrix’s window with a duffel bag and demands that they escape from their dismal small-town life.
Hendrix views this impromptu road trip as the perfect opportunity to find a human victim to satisfy his malevolent desires. But Arden is just as unpredictable as he is, and she drags him into her crisis of their uncertain futures. However, the ups and downs of their road trip through the Pacific Northwest only drive Hendrix closer to madness, forcing both of them to confront the ugly parts of themselves that they’d rather keep hidden.
Navigating through a world that has rejected both of them, Hendrix and Arden crash in motel rooms, meet fellow travelers both intimidating and heartfelt and keep secrets from each other that will rip their lives apart.
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary
PAGE COUNT: 441
This book does deal with heavy topics like alcohol use, violence, disturbing images, animal death, etc. Reader discretion is advised.
Positive Vibes Only
Now we’re getting into my actual review! This section is pure positivity, so I’ll just be going down the list of things that I liked about Casually Homicidal.
Deep Dive: Let’s Talk About Hendrix and Arden
I am forever longing for theArden- Casually Homicidal
clarity that disaster brings: the way that life seems to always boil our bullshit down to what really matters.
The story follows our first character: Arden. Without spoiling too much, I like to think of her as the embodiment of loss. Since this is after their high-school graduation, I think most of us young adults can relate to the idea of being thrown into the unknown without a life preserver. It’s scary. It’s daunting. And Bennett does a great job of conveying that through Arden’s character.
Even though there were times when I felt like she was a little self-absorbed, I still found myself sympathizing with her because we all want to make a lasting impact on this world. Being forgotten seems too great a burden to bear.
Another thing I enjoyed about her character (which I also think helped separate the dual POVs — more on that soon) was the addition of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
Not only was it refreshing to see it help emulate her character, but I also loved how subtle the symbolism was. Arden is someone who is trying to find meaning in her life, especially for the hard things. And The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (if you don’t know) was created to put those complex emotions or ideas into words. It was a brilliant way to bring complexity to her character and to the overall story.
I’m also into Psychology so I find myself looking for reasons why the character acts the way they do because it’s important to convey that. I think Bennett did a great job of showing Arden’s reasons for becoming the person she became. A lot of writers have a difficult time fleshing out their characters and making them three-dimensional, but this is where I felt like Bennett truly flourished.
A great monster inside of me has begun to stir in his slumber, something greater than this present darkness.Hendrix- Casually Homicdal
Casually Homicidal also follows Hendrix, our second (and main) character. He’s a self-proclaimed sociopath and I would say the vibes are definitely there. I wouldn’t say I related to him because I don’t like killing animals for fun, but, I did find myself sympathizing with him after learning his backstory. I also felt that his character arc rounded off very well towards the end.
What I really loved though is that even though on the surface he seemed like a crazy person that you wouldn’t root for, over time I found myself realizing that he was just a broken kid who was manifesting his trauma in violent ways. I’m not going to spoil his entire backstory because I want you guys to form your own opinions, but I promise you that whatever you think about him, in the beginning, will change once you finish.
I can tell that Bennett drew a lot of inspiration from The End Of The F****ing World and other shows/works of the same genre, but she was able to still make her character her own. Just like Arden, he’s also three-dimensional and multi-faceted, so I always felt like I was learning something new about him in each chapter.
The Subtle Art of Dual POVs
This is something that Bennett is known for in both Casually Homicidal and A Cactus In The Valley and she kills it every time.
I’ve always admired anyone who can successfully do dual POVs because it’s difficult to make both characters have unique voices. That’s something that can make or break a story because I know it sucks if you’re reading a book and you can’t differentiate who’s speaking.
You’re not going to have this problem with Casually Homicidal or her first novel because Bennett has cracked the code on how to do it correctly. So if you’re the type of person who loves dual POVs, then you’ll enjoy both of her books.
But Kae, What About The Writing?
I feel like I’m the only one who watches Jenna Moreci, but I just had to use that saying! It’s iconic.
But all jokes aside, most readers care about one thing in particular: the writing style.
Casually Homicidal’s tone is gritty and dark and I think the writing style reflects that atmosphere. I didn’t feel like there was a disconnect between the two, so I think she did a great job of conveying that. Bennett is able to make you feel how somber both characters are and how those emotions twisted their individual perceptions of the world around them.
I would also say that the writing is simple, but still descriptive enough that I can immerse myself in the story. I think there was a healthy balance between exposition, dialogue, and description so I didn’t feel like any of the scenes dragged on for too long.
I didn’t find myself getting bored or struggling to get through any sentences or paragraphs, so it’s pretty normal in that aspect.
Let’s Go On A Road Trip
This is the most important part of the story. The heart for lack of a better word.
Road trips are hard to write about. You have multiple characters stuck in one location for the majority of the book and you have to make it interesting and have a plot. And god forbid if you forget character arcs. In order to do this effectively, you have to do your research and take your time with it.
I think Bennett did a good job with the character arcs and making the road trip interesting. You can tell that she put a lot of time and effort into the places she researched, how to give something that’s normally so “boring” some depth, and she succeeded in creating some type of plot from it. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a couple of things that I felt could have been improved upon.
Uh Oh…What’s the Tea?
I got into the positives, which were quite a few, but what didn’t I like? I want to reiterate that these are my personal opinions so you’re allowed to disagree with me when you read the book for yourself. I won’t be offended.
Stuck Between A Rock & A Hard Place
Personally, I felt there were a couple of moments in the book where it started getting stagnant. I found myself waiting for something crazy to happen so it could pick up the speed of the story if that makes sense. I think that the story could have done well with some sort of conflict from an external force that would have encouraged the both of them to grow up and reflect internally.
**SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD**
So for example, the show I’ve been referencing throughout this entire review has a major turning point towards the middle of the story where both of the characters have to go on the run after murdering someone. This external force not only is the catalyst to the events that transpire in the last act, but it also helps propel the growth of the main character, James. Even though he had experienced some self-reflection from being with the other character, Alyssa, it was heightened after that experience.
So I think that if Bennett would have incorporated something like that in those pockets where it needed a little extra push, it would have added a lot more complexity to the story.
Toe In The Pond
As for what I mean by this, I personally felt that she played it safe. I felt that there were a few moments where she stopped just short of being really dark, but I’m also looking at this through the eyes of an adult who’s seen and read a lot of things.
I think this is due to the audience it’s for (14+) so you have to be careful about what you can include and what you can’t. So this part isn’t a reflection on the book itself, but more of a personal preference.
Final Thoughts & Rating
Solid 4 stars! Casually Homicidal was definitely a great read and I will say it helped me get out of my reading slump.
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Until next time!
-The Writer Chick