Saturday, 26 November 2016

LOST IN STATIC by Christina Phillipou

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

This is the debut novel by book blogger Christina Phillipou, a well plotted mystery about four kids in their first year of university.  She should be proud of herself.

The basics
The story is set in 2001, and told from the first person points of view of Juliette, Ruby, Callum and Yasmine, in frequently alternating short sections.  Juliette is a Christian, a sort of observer, I thought, with hang ups about her sexuality. Ruby is Miss Insecure, accident prone, a bit silly, the stereotypical hard partying eighteen year old.  Yasmine is a spoilt (apparently) rich girl, superficial and calculating, intelligent and cold.  Callum is a friendly guy, handsome, and, most interestingly, his sections are written in the form of emails to an unknown recipient - this is really good, as the 'who is he writing to?' questions builds throughout!  From the beginning we get the hint of dark events to come, and behind the scenes; there is some mystery behind each character, with some secrets nicely hinted at. 

The postive
At first I was only averagely interested in the story itself, but it crept up on me and by about 40% I was engrossed.  The build up is excellent, and, more than that, I applaud Ms Phillipou for her skill in making sure all the characters had such different 'voices'.  As far as this element goes, this novel is one of the best I've read in ages.  Callum is totally different from how he is seen by Yasmine and Ruby ~ not so sure of himself as they assume.  I liked reading Yasmine's sections because she is clever, insightful and articulate; she's the bitch of the show, and by far the most interesting.  I can't say I warmed to any of them, but I like this in a novel, and applaud a writer who has the confidence to make her characters less than appealing.  'Nice' is boring; I like to read about the self-obsessed, the delusional, the underhand!

I thought it was a good, no holds barred portrayal of young men and women of that age, and the writing just flows, so easy to read.

The negatives
Few, and not game-changingThe removal of about 95% of Ruby's constant use of the word 'mate' would have made her less irritating.  I thought it could have done with a bit of tightening up by the editor, generally, and there are some minor punctuation errors (and note to proofreader: the thing you pin on your clothes is a brooch, not a broach!)

The second point is something that many will not agree with, and an observation rather than a criticism.  As most scenarios are seen through the eyes of all the main characters, the reader keeps being taken back to the beginning of a scene to re-live it.  It's fascinating to see how differently each one sees a set of circumstances (I particularly liked the way in which one girl thinks she is getting somewhere with Callum, but in his sections she is mentioned only in passing and, later, as if he thinks she's a bit of a stalker), but on occasion I found it made the flow of the book stilted.  There are ways of showing that Yasmine might view things differently from Ruby without playing out the stream of events in its entirety; a couple of neat paragraphs with the key points, for instance, might have added variation, paced the book better and actually had more impact.

Lastly, I wasn't convinced by this constant demonising of smokers and a big deal being made out of it generally.  Before the public smoking ban of 2007, people either smoked or they didn't, to whatever extent, and that was that, particularly in young, hard drinking, hard partying circles; it wasn't the issue that it is now.

On the whole, I was most impressed with this debut.  It's so good to see such an original book by an author who has genuine talent for dialogue, character portrayal and the build up of suspense; the mystery unravels with perfect timing.  I would also like to thank Christina Phillipou for adding another word to my 'words I can't type' list.  The book's called Lost In Statci, right?  Every time...!


  1. Love your review, I liked the gritty teenage drama and as you say clever to make the characters readable but not necessarily likable.

    1. Yes ~ who wants to read about nice people all the time? Baddies are much more fun!

  2. Terrific review. This sounds like one I should read.

  3. Great review, Terry. I've just started reading this.

  4. Barb and Shelley, I think you'd both like it :)