ARC Review: C.J.: #Murdertrending / Gretchen McNeil - In Which People Pay to Watch You Get Offed

title: #Murdertrending
author: Gretchen McNeil
pages: 352
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3/5
Genre: Horror
Topics: Murder, Reality Television, Grim Humor
CW: Murder, Gore, Suicide, Kidnapping, Abuse 

3 lemons - I liked it!

When Big Brother Met The Most Dangerous Game 

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

In The Future, We Still Love Death

Not gonna lie, I was pretty much snuggling this book as soon as I heard the premise. It just seems so damn plausible. America is well known for its appetite for drama. Reality shows like Big Brothers, The Real World (throwback!), and Keeping Up With the Kardashians serve up weekly doses of relatively unlikable people behaving badly, while shows like Cops, My Favorite Murderer, and the gore-fest that is the nightly news sate our appetite for others' misery.

Gretchen kills it (pun very much intended) with a clever mash-up of the two. Its the details that make her concept so deliciously plausible and compelling. On Alcatraz 2.0, convicted murderers live in their own luxury houses nestled in a Stepford-like fake town. They have mundane jobs. They're surrounded by video cameras. Every minute of their life is available for app users to consume, and their grisly deaths at the hands of themed government-sanctioned serial killers are streamed live in grisly HD. Users can "like" videos. There are forums. Fansites. The hot prisoners have swoony (and creepy) gangs of love-starved devotees. It's a grimly hysterical parody of what happens when you mix capitalism and voyeurism with so-called justice, and the satire is rock solid. If you can't name at least one friend who would be glued to this app, you're lying.

The Glitches 

Being a serial killer junkie, I was a little nitpicky about the murderers. Real serial killers have highly ritualized and psychologically meaningful ways of killing. They're internally consistent. The rituals are so important that many serial killers will quickly seek another victim of their ritual gets snowed. So to me, this gang of killers was in a different class, less classic sexual sadist and more happy-go-lucky spree killer. It was also a hugely missed opportunity not to have Gucci Hangman craft fashion articles out of inmates' skin and viscera, ala Eddie Gein.

There were also some pacing and realism issues that emerged from the way Gretchen kept secrets. The beginning throws you right in to the island, but then there's no mystery. Dee is just suddenly on this island. The tension takes a while to build up. I wanted goosebumps! But there was so little mystery to it. She could have really built the tension too by pointing out some of the details that drove me crazy. Like, I've worked in jails for a couple years now. There's zero chance a murder investigation and trial (plus sentencing to death!) would take 10 days, like Dee's. Most take literal years just to get to trial. We get an explanation later, but at first, Dee kind of rolls with it, which made me worry that Gretchen was unaware of how trials work. She could have increased Dee's sense of wrongness up front by making it clear how unusual the situation was.

I'm Ready For My Close-up 

Take it for what it is, and you'll have a lot of fun with this book. The characters truly are a kind of Death Row Breakfast Club, with a brain, princess, basket case . . . you get the picture. Our hero, Dee, is a feisty, resourceful girl who kicks major ass and takes command of every page she's on. She's also got a secret: she was kidnapped as a child and tortured by a psychopathic girl who wanted to be "friends." It's obvious if you've ever read a book that the kidnapping is somehow related to the Postman app. The two stories were cleverly tied together, although I found the reveals rather predictable. 

The other characters are solid but forgettable. There's a British diplomat who's an obvious love interest. I found him pretty amusing. I also liked the way that Gretchen cast doubt on each character; were they really hapless inmates too, or were they working for the Postman in secret? There was a nice little plot twist towards the end that I found fairly satisfying. Unfortunately, she also does play into some horror movie stereotypes, such as killing off certain characters stereotypically. 

I Know What You Read Last Week

If you're looking for a Gone Girl psychological thriller, you'll go in disappointed. #MURDERTRENDING is solid gold camp, the kind of self-aware half-parody that made Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer so popular in the 90s and naughts. If Gretchen wasn't going to go hardcore transgressive darkness, she made the right call in pushing this story to its most ridiculous limits. The murderers have cutesy names like Cecil B. DeViolent and Gucci Hangman, each with their own absurd M.Os. They boil people in huge vats, hang them with designer scarves, and stage elaborate traps all across the island, while the hapless inmates craft fake personas and romances to try and jocky for more fans--and more time alive.

Suspend your disbelief and dive in. This book is fun. It's a campy as hell slasher-fest with copious amounts of gore, groan-worthy (in the best way) puns, and enough tongue-in-cheek references to horror movie tropes to satisfy a fan of the genre. Gretchen clearly had a lot of fun writing this, and that energy suffuses every page. It was like reading a slasher movie. I was constantly delighted by the absurdities and snark, all packaged in Gretchen's sharp, cinematic writing. 

My thoughts overall

A fun, campy book you can devour in a night, like reading your favorite slasher movie.

Will I read this author again? Yep
Will I continue this series? N/A I'm pretty sure 

More Reviews for #Murdertrending 

My Thoughts Literally! - Review: #Murdertrending
A Backwards Story - {Review} #Murdertrending 

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  

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