Review: Envy by Gregg Olsen


title:  Envy

author:  Gregg Olsen

pages: 285

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0340956786

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 2/5 [in the genre] or 3/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of paranormal mystery and quick reads.  

will i read this author again?:  Maybe, if I heard good things from a reviewer I trust. 
will i continue the series?:  Probably not. 

My Ratings Explained

Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

take home message
A clumsy mystery that aims high but gets stuck in bad dialogue and flat characterization.  

For someone who loved it, check out Chapter by Chapter.  

the basics
I really wanted to love this book.  The premise is eerie, supernatural murder mystery goodness.  The author is a sweet guy.  The cover is a dead girl in a bathtub.  Come on!  It screams "read me."  Unfortunately, it was...just okay.  Tiresome, at points.  I think some people would really appreciate the adjective-heavy exposition and crime novel feel (John Sanford? James Patterson?).  I'm not one of them.  My crime novel career ended with Dan Brown and is a little too obvious and explanatory for me--and I felt that here.  Things explained that should have been obvious.  Overwrought narrative.  Characters that read like types.  A mystery that was intriguing but not tense enough to keep my interest, with forced red herrings.  It's a good book in theory, but the style didn't resonate with me at all.  I had a difficult time finishing, actually.  That said, Olsen does a great job of exploring issues like cyber bullying and suicide.  The mystery just missed my mark.  

plot . 3/5
The plot itself is fairly strong for the most part.  You start with Katelyn, obviously troubled, who turns up dead the next day.  Accident?  Many think not.  Taylor and Haley, psychic twins, begin to received strange messages in water and air suggesting something deeper.  The twins' crime writer dad guides them on their quest.  A reporter is digging a little too deeply.  And Katelyn's former best friend is definitely hiding something.  You have all the mixings for a good mystery, they just don't come out as a delicious cake.  The supernatural plot is weakly explained and overshadowed by simple detective work.  The suspect is easy to guess from the start, though there is a twist--but one I found a wee bit far fetched.  Then there's one pretty substantial plot thread that never goes anywhere.  It's almost inserted just to throw off the reader without any consequence.  Fine for real life, but it's not integrated as a book needs it to be.  I just didn't feel much urgency in this book.  No tension begging me to continue.  It wasn't until I was reading other reviews that I even remembered one of the big happenings in the end--because it felt purposeless, thrown in.  Disappointing.  

concept . 4/5
This one has a strong concept going for it.  Cyber bullying is a huge issue in the media but rarely investigated in literature.  It's a problem that needs a voice.  Olsen's focus on cyber bullying as a major point of the crime is a great way of getting the issue out.  Unfortunately, I think he could have gone further.  You don't find out the bulk of the crime until the end, and hints only crop up about halfway through.  Sure, it's a short book, but mystery lives and dies by foreshadowing.  The supernatural part was much less involved.  We get some water reading, some weird hunches, some visions.  They're a bit deus ex machina and never fully explained.  Perhaps the twins will come back in another book and their powers will be more explained, but I found them kind of superfluous.  

characters . 3/5
I had a hard time getting really involved with anyone.  I think the writing style was a big culprit.  If I can't take the writing seriously, I can't get into the characters.  Katelyn is the victim (or is she?), but I don't have a clear sense of who she was, what she wanted (besides a spot on the cheerleading squad), what her relationship with ex-bestie Starla was really like, why she grew distant from Taylor and Haley.  The twins themselves are okay characters, if not a little generic.  Their father, on the other hand, is over-the-top.  Then there's the reporter, whose motivations I couldn't understand, particularly after an important reveal at the end.  She felt like a last-minute "neat new" plot thread.  Starla is even more enigmatic, not in the fun way, and her brother is a blip on the horizon.  I needed more from these characters.  Even in a formulaic genre story, I needed to buy them.  To care about them.  To see more than cardboard cutouts.  

style . 1/5
I just can't.  I'd kill for good style and Olsen's just doesn't suit me.  It reads young, maybe?  I'm sure some readers would appreciate his over-the-top exposition, but I found it irritating.  He overexplained everything and made the most obvious observations triply obvious, until I wanted to scream, "Yes, we get it!"  There were too many adjectives, too few emotions, and dialogue that felt wooden.  My biggest hate?  The "text speak."  If this is what adults think teens type like, I'm baffled.  First of all, abbreviations are much less overdone with Autocorrect.  Sure, you get "u" and "2", but not the strange combinations of letters Olsen uses, which read much more like a secret code.  It was, frankly, annoying to decipher.  For example: "XXX"  It's a far cry from "wut up."  And dropped the teenage authenticity way down.  

mechanics . 2/5
I'd like to take some shears to this book.  Remove 2/3 of the adjectives and you'd get some pretty clean writing out of it.  Olsen is clearly talented.  It just feels like he's trying too hard to be descriptive and not letting the words speak for themselves.  

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. I've read this book and I quite enjoyed it. However, just like you, I probably won't continue the series.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really wanted to.

  2. I have this one but have yet to read it. I'll still probably read it, though I have about a billion other books to read.
    Great review!

    1. Thanks! Do still read it. I've read a lot of reviews by people who loved it. It just didn't work for ME.