REVIEW: You Were Never Really Here

Trigger warnings: child abuse, domestic abuse, excessive substance abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault

Normally, trigger warnings go at the end of my reviews, as I usually have enough to say about the story that I can save discuss them directly in a spoilers section. However, the triggers connected to this novella are so ingrained in the story, I felt it necessary to mention them first as the review itself may be upsetting to some.

The story is about ex-Marine and ex-FBI agent, Joe and how he has become a hitman of sorts specializing in rescuing kidnapped children. After being hired to rescue a 14-year-old girl from a brothel run by the mob, the job goes sideways and Joe is determined to figure out where things went wrong.

The novella by Johnathan Ames has recently been turned in a film that received several major awards at the Festival du Cannes in 2017. Given the academic praise, I figured I would give the book a try before seeing the movie. Let me tell you one thing, I will not be seeing the movie.

The story moved at a reasonable pace, and I felt like it was action packed and gave enough information to know what kind of man Joe is. However, it was extremely graphic when it came to discussing the trafficking circles Joe used to bust as an FBI agent, and the level of violence against innocent bystanders was a little much at times. But the biggest problem, for me, was the open ending. 112 pages was more than enough for me and I wish that there had been some kind of justice or at the very least a concrete ending to the mayhem.

It was a very cinematic read, and I can see why it did so well at Cannes under the directorial eye of Lynne Ramsay (who also directed the adaptation of the very disturbing book We Need to Talk About Kevin). I can also say that as graphic as it was, it was an engaging read that was honestly reminiscent of dime store crime novels.

A solid 3 out of 5.


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Author: Jonathan Ames
Published: January 6, 2013
Pages: 112
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780525562894

Synopsis: Joe has witnessed things that cannot be erased. A former FBI agent and Marine, his abusive childhood has left him damaged beyond repair. He has completely withdrawn from the world and earns his living rescuing girls who have been kidnapped into the sex trade.

When he’s hired to save the daughter of a corrupt New York senator held captive at a Manhattan brothel, he stumbles into a dangerous web of conspiracy, and he pays the price. As Joe’s small web of associates are picked off one by one, he realizes that he has no choice but to take the fight to the men who want him dead.

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