Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Damage Done

Damage DoneAuthor: Amanda Panitch
Series: Standalone
Released: July 21st 2015
Publisher: Random House
Length: 304 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.
Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.
After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.
Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.
One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .

Damage Done is one of those books that push us far outside our comfort zones, making us feel confused, scared and completely disgusted. It was a considerable feat for Amanda Panitch and a huge risk to take for a debut novel, but being courageous enough to stretch the boundaries or even erase them altogether can certainly pay off, and it did.

We meet Julia Vann as she’s getting accustomed to her new life, in a new city and under a different name. Her parents packed up and ran from their past after a horrible crime, mostly for her benefit, and now she’s alone in a new city for the first time in her life, a tabula rasa free to become anything at all.

It’s clear from the start that Lucy/Julia has a lot to hide as she’s very consciously lying and manipulating her way through her new environment. The terrible crime her brother committed might be a looming shadow over her life, but her exact role in it remains unclear until the end. Through her eyes, as she slowly reveals her past to us, we see the development of a sociopath, feared by everyone but herself. While it’s clear that people can be born evil, it’s also quite obvious that nothing is ever that simple. Even those born with something essential missing can be changed by their environment, if those around them are interested or caring enough to actually get involved. Damage Done is a psychological thriller first, but at the same time, it’s a critique of parents, the school system and even, to a degree, mental health professionals, who can become so absorbed in their own problems that they completely miss the warning signs of those they’re responsible for.

Damage Done works hard to shock and astonish and it succeeds to a degree. It would probably work best for someone who’d go into it blindly, unaware of the many comparisons to Gillian Flynn and other similar thrillers. But even aware that something is coming, I couldn’t have possibly guessed the full extent of it or how unsettling it would all be.

For all the attention it gave to its protagonist, the book painfully neglected the secondary characters, leaving them unexplored, unexplained and completely two-dimensional, starting with Julia’s parents and ending with her new boyfriend Michael. Such lack of serious characterization should not have happened in what is essentially a psychological thriller, where everything is, and should be, about the characters.

Overall, Damage Done is disconcerting and scary as hell, but it’s a much needed breath of fresh air in YA fiction. I’m still reeling from the effect it had on me, and although uncomfortable, it makes for a nice change after all the lukewarm, forgettable reads.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Bummer it doesn't establish the secondary characters all that well, but overall, I'm really curious. I really like mysteries/thrillers!

  2. I haven't really been interested in this book but after reading your review, color me intrigued! DAMAGE DONE sounds kind of scary in the way that it's a thriller, yes, but I'm curious to see the author's critiques on parenting and the school system... It's unfortunate that the secondary characters are lacking, I completely agree with you on the fact that thrillers must have strong characters all around. I'll have to look into more reviews of this book to see if it's really a "me" book, but I sure loved your review, Maja!

  3. I agree, this was a breath of..well scary air LOL! Glad you liked this Maja!

  4. I saw a couple of very good reviews about this one so I'm glad to see you had a good time with it. It sounds quite intense and different. I should try!

  5. Well, clearly it is something to add to the wishlist! Even if it'll be a tough one to read!
    A tough psychological thriller as a debut is quite risky but as you said also very welcome!
    Great review Maja!

  6. The title alone gives us the impression that it won't be an easy read, so at least we know what we're to expect. I love that she didn't take the easy road with her debut novel.

  7. I'm both incredibly intrigued by this book and incredibly nervous about it Maja! I definitely want to know whatever it is that you weren't able to guess, I love being caught completely by surprise in a psychological thriller! I'm in a light and fluffy read kind of place at the moment, but I'm adding this to the list when I'm in the mood for something dark and twisty:)

  8. I can already predict what happened in the book, but I still really want to read this one. I love that she's a psychopath and you can see how she goes through life manipulating and lying to people. I'm glad this was such a huge success to you, Maja! I'm looking forward to reading it now.
    Lovely review!

  9. Wow, sounds like it did a great job on the creepy and keeping you engaged

  10. Scary as hell, that does sound scary

  11. You piqued my interest with this one, Maja though I'm always weary of books that are marketed as the next "Gillian Flynn title". I'm a bit sad that the secondary characters are neglected. Still I think I might give this book a shot.

  12. Going into it blindly, you say? Well, you've got your girl right here. (I'm raising my hand now!) It's on my list, but I've fallen behind on new releases due to an unexpected infatuation with Neil Gaiman. I've read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere, and loved them completely. I'm starting American Gods tomorrow. I can't seem to stop reading him, lol!

  13. Despite not developing characters this does sound good. I like these dark, edgy tales Maja.

  14. I've seen this around Goodreads but I don't think I've clicked on it to read the summary or read a review until now. Although it is a same the secondary characters were kind of thrown aside and not fully fleshed out I'm loving the sound of the no holds barred approach the author took.

  15. Damn, I already added this to my tbr, but now I'm itching to read it this second. It sounds like a book I'd love.

  16. I haven't read Gone Girl, so I wouldn't be able to make comparisons. This does sound thrilling, even if the secondary characters aren't fleshed out enough. Maybe I'll see if they have an audio copy at the library and give that a go. Wonderful review, Maja! :)

  17. Your review has me incredibly intrigued. I'm always up for some psychological thrillers/mysteries, and it's great to hear that this is a breath of fresh air! Sounds like a remarkable, if disturbing debut.

  18. I have been on the fence for this book. I know it will unsettle me and that isn't always a bad thing. I also think I'd throw the book too. :) Hm... I think I need something quite humorous before I tackle this book. Still, you have me putting it on my wishlist.

  19. I love when a book can really surprise you, even if you thought you had it all figured out. Plus, I've not read any of Flynn's books so this will not seem too similar or predictable for me!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist


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