When Novels Try to be Edgy | ‘Wrong Side of Hell’ by Sonya Bateman [Book Review]

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This is one of those books that I got for free on my Kindle and I wasn’t expecting much. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I found myself enjoying it. Let’s be frank for a moment: this isn’t literature by any means. But as a supernatural thriller? I liked it.

For one, it’s a fast read–not only because it’s not terribly long but also because the action rarely lets up and never for very long. I enjoy this every once and a while. Not all books have to do something revolutionary or deep; sometimes they’re just a fun ride. This is one of those novels.

It also helped that I decided I liked the protagonist, Gideon Black (can you tell he’s a little edgy?), from an early point in reading. And that’s the trick with these kinds of books–at least in my experience. It can be a fun, fast-paced story but if the characters don’t pop, it won’t matter how much action you cram in. I wanted to see Gideon succeed and make it out okay, so I was willing to see him through every mishap.

There is one thing that bothered me through this whole book and that’s the way ‘chapter’ was written at the beginning of each chapter. It was like this: cHAPTER. Why?! Just why?! Lower-case and then all caps? Why to you want my head to explode?! It’s not a literary critic but it made my eye twitch every time I looked at it.

Now that my rant is over…

There are some legitimately awkward parts in this novel. For one, there are some odd descriptive similes. For example:

The air seemed almost thick, the way heavy clouds look like they should feel.

Chapter 24

I’m sorry, maybe I’m thick, but what does that even mean? It in no way clarifies what the air feels like and left me more confused than I would have been if Bateman had just said “the air seemed almost thick”.

My only other major complaint is that it feels as if the action peaked a little too early for the first confrontation in the conflict. What I mean is that there was this build up in tension, some resolution, and a failure all before the half-way mark. It makes for a weird lull for a quarter of the book when the ‘heroes’ are regrouping and waiting around. It’s not the worst thing since the book isn’t super long to begin with but I almost stopped reading, which can’t be a good sign.

I decided to stick it out since I was close enough to the end anyway but there were definitely a few moments when I thought, “do I even care?”

On a positive note, there were moments that I really liked. Such as:

Body movers are basically taxi drivers for the dead.

Chapter 2

Something about this quote stuck with me, and I think it has something to do with how it expresses Gideon’s view of his job without having to be too obvious about it. The writing is not always this smooth in this novel but I wanted to show that there’s a reason I even finished it.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Overall, I would say that this novel is passable at best. If you like supernatural thrillers and you have a day off where all you want is something easy and fun than you could give this a try–but there are better ways to spend your time.

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