Book Reviews

The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent

A tremendous thanks to Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Heather Darwent for my advanced reader copy of The Things We Do to Our Friends. Available wherever you buy books as of January 10, 2023!

Who doesn’t love reading books that are so incredibly different from your own life? It’s why fantasy novels are so popular, right? I’d put crime and thriller in this category too, which means The Things We Do to Our Friends fits. It’s definitely outside of my life. (If it’s similar to your life, let’s talk. I have both questions and concerns.)

The Story

She’s an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut of literary suspense following a clique of dangerously ambitious students at the University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the dark secrets in her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?

When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she’s destined to be friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel; shrewd Ava; and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.

And then Tabitha reveals a little project she’s been working on, one that she needs Clare’s help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it’s already too late. Because they’ve taken the plunge. They’re so close to attaining the things they want. And there’s no going back.

What is the cost of an extraordinary life if others have to pay? Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and striving with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have, and those who covet–between the desire to truly belong, and the danger of being truly known.

My Thoughts

This book was…interesting…in not a great way. It had all the makings of a great story: girl trying to escape from her past, falls in with a group of affluent friends who take her under their wing, popularity…

Honestly, it felt like there were too many different storylines, a lot of which were unnecessary in the end. Clare’s “history,” while dark, wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, and the true story just kind of came out in passing.

Tabitha’s “project” is also ridiculous. I’d pin it on a storyline with too much money. SPOILER ALERT: The project is that they begin entrapping men upon request of their wives so the wives know if they’re cheaters or not. Really?! The idea that these, what, college freshmen (?) try to believe this is a legitimate lifelong business? No.

The ending was moderately justified, and made up for a lot of the inbetween. If nothing else, I loved that The Things We Do to Our Friends took place in Scotland. It was at least a bit of a different set of scenery.

This is Heather Darwent’s first novel, so congratulations! While this one didn’t blow me away, I look forward to seeing what she writes next. Also, can we just take a moment to love and appreciate this cover?! One of the few times the U.S. cover is actually prettier than the rest of the world’s.

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