Saturday, May 4, 2019

Book Review: "The East End" by Jason Allen

This was a crazy book, very different than what I was expecting!

Corey Halpern is a townie, living in the Hamptons with his mother and brother, struggling to make ends meet, and watching the rich people parade in and out during the season. He dreams of nothing more than leaving, of starting a new life far away from the people he resents, far from his alcoholic mother and his drug-addicted, violent stepfather.

Just before Memorial Day weekend, where he's scheduled to work with his mother at the wealthy Sheffields' mansion, he decides to partake in one of his favorite pastimes—breaking into other mansions. He's not all that interested in taking anything; he enjoys the illicit feeling of sneaking in, of taking risks even when the homeowners are asleep while he's there.

Still riding his buzz from one break-in, he heads for the Sheffields'. He is surprised when their youngest daughter, Tiffany, arrives home with her best friend, Angelique, a girl who has caught Corey's eye many times before, but he figures she has written him off because of their different financial situations. He's able to escape their attention, but he decides to hang around and watch Angelique for a while.

Unexpectedly, Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO and Tiffany's father, decides to arrive at the house the evening before the rest of his family is scheduled to take up residence. He is joined by Henry, his much younger (and emotionally unstable) lover, for one last rendezvous before he must spend the summer with his family. Under the influence of a great deal of alcohol and cocaine, a freak accident occurs, and Henry winds up dead.

Leo is unsure what his next move is—how can he get caught in this situation when his wife already suspects him of having an affair, albeit not with a man? He's utterly unprepared for the fact that both Corey and Angelique saw at least some of what happened, and for how he'll react to that fact.

What happens over the course of the next 24 hours will change all of their lives, including Gina, Corey's mother. It's a crazy series of events, incorrect assumptions, and threats; people will lose control; and no one is quite sure how things will wind up.

The East End is a well-written but chaotic look at the haves and the have-nots, and how barriers to happiness exist for everyone. There's a lot—almost too much—going on in this book, and I really wondered how Jason Allen would tie everything together in the end. I thought he raised some very interesting issues on which the story could turn, but as it raced toward a breakneck conclusion, I didn't feel as if any of the threads were fully resolved.

I love the way Allen uses language and imagery; his descriptions of Corey's break-ins made me feel the tension right alongside of him, and I could see some of the scenery he described. I just really wasn't a fan of any of these characters—while each had issues that made me feel sympathy for them, their actions were so odious at times I quickly lost those feelings. But still, there is a lot to ponder here.

I'm honored to be part of the blog tour for The East End. NetGalley, HARLEQUIN, and Park Row Books provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

This book will be published May 7, 2019.

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