Or why you should read One Kick
by Chelsea Cain
There once was a girl named Kit Larson, a normal kid from a loving home, who was kidnapped. And then she was Beth, a doting "daughter" with a starring role in popular child porn. Now she is Kick Larson, a free woman trained to protect herself and obsessed with freeing other abducted children from their captors. When two more children go missing Kick is recruited by an enigmatic and wealthy stranger to help him rescue the kidnapped children. Kick finally has her chance to make a difference, but as the mystery deepens, she will have to confront her own dark history to save the missing kids.
One Kick is a pretty exciting and emotionally brutal book. It is that special breed of high octane thriller that slams, kicks, and choke holds your attention from the first chapter (a truly great sickly slow reveal), to the final climatic pages. This is the kind of novel that leaves you sick in the pit of the stomach and sore in the hands from gripping the book. It's also the kind of book that swallows you into the story: Kick, her struggles to define herself, and her dark history are deeply arresting and soul guttering stuff. One Kick is a Thriller with substance and I quite enjoyed it.
One Kick is also kind of formally interesting. This is a very lean book. One Kick errs very strongly on cutting out anything that isn't adding to the action, tension, or the character of Kick. This helps keep the novel rocketing along, but also cuts out a lot of the connective tissue and rationale behind some of the novels events; some things just seem to conveniently happen. Which makes some of the events in One Kick feel a little manufactured. (Of course, when compared to some thriller novels that have tried to build in all of the logistics, One Kick does a much better job managing suspense. It's definitely a tradeoff.) Anyway, I'm bringing this up because I found this aspect of how the novel is written really interesting: the appearance of some of the more improbable and convenient events in the novel created a sense of chaos in the story. Kick as a protagonist is Not Completely Okay, and spends a certain amount of One Kick reacting to inexplicable or difficult events. The judicious editing, the lack of some connective tissue, means that as readers we are also reacting to unexplained situations and slammed by surprising events. I feel like this structural choice makes reading the novel somewhat replicate part of the emotional experience of Kick. Which is a pretty cool trick of writing.
One Kick is a novel that deals with child pornography and child molestation. If these are things you cannot deal with, or want to avoid reading about, One Kick is not a novel you will enjoy. That said, if you are a mature reader who enjoys Thriller novels with an affecting emotional core and stories that deal difficult topics, One Kick is a smart, challenging, and exciting read . If you are looking for a swift kick of action, One Kick might be the book for you.