Do Not Become Alarmed is an unputdownable thriller


United By Pop received a free copy of Do Not Become Alarmed in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.

Title: Do Not Become Alarmed

Author: Maile Meloy

Purchase: Available in the UK and the US

Overall rating: 4/5

Great for: Fans of Mary G. Thompson, Chevy Stevens and Emma Donoghue

Themes: Adult, contemporary, thriller, mystery, abduction.


Review: With every good bookshop’s shelves stuffed with psychologically twisted thrillers and emotionally haunting crime stories, it can be overwhelming to find something unique in this overcrowded genre. The ‘Gone Girl’s’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’s’ of the category dominate, and it seems a plethora of books are sold in their pale imitations. It is time for something new. And Maile Meloy has delivered it.

‘Do Not Become Alarmed’ requires the reader to do exactly what the title warns against in this emotional barrage of a story. When cousins Liv and Nora, along with their 2.4 families, decide to spend their Christmas vacation on board a cruise ship, the worst drama they can envision is squabbling over snack time.

They divide their time between sampling the endless buffet food and enjoying the just as endless onboard entertainment. But when cabin fever threatens to overwhelm their idyllic family break and a zip-line excursion proves too tempting for the families, they break away from the comfort and familiarity of the ship and make for Central America.

What follows is a torrent of emotion and a twisted story that will leave you breathless until its final culmination. And maybe not even then will you be able to heave a real sigh of relief ever again…

This multiple POV story spills its secrets through the alternating perspectives of the children, their parents, and the aggressors that wish them harm. Each side is given almost equal attention and, through them, a complete story is slowly unveiled for the reader, if not the characters. Maloy controls each voice with an ease and authenticity that made each individual apparent as soon as the perspectives switched and each had something to offer this mysterious story.

The dark subject matter made this a completely terrifying read, as every parent’s worst scenario is played out in a raw and brutal detail. No emotion is spared and every facet, that makes this thriller so haunting, is delivered to the reader with an authenticity that belies the fiction tag this comes with.

It is hard to separate this story from its multitude of real-life counterparts. Perhaps most close in comparison is the tragic disappearance of Madeleine McCann, whilst holidaying with her family. Regardless of the outcome, blame was heaped onto the grieving parents and both the media and online trolls were quick to pass judgement but less scant with their condolences, once certain facets of their tragedy became public knowledge.

This explores every nuance of emotion experienced by the grieving parents. As their stories unfolded, so too did the blame. Not one of the adults is held culpable and yet each had a sinister part to play in the all that occurred. The ‘what ifs’ haunt this book and just one small alteration in judgement or just one slight twist of fate’s knife might have seen the events unfurl in an altogether more pleasant way.

The children, too, experience the same emotions but in a different format. They succumb to fear and self-blame before turning on one and other to escape their emotions. Seeing the parents’ agony play out with their children as the actors invite the reader to ignore what led up to the book’s ultimate catastrophe and find the compassion the families so sorely require.

‘Do Not Become Alarmed’ is a story that will dog every reader after the final pages are turned. It is a chilling perception of the limitations of authority and this worst-case-scenario plays out along the backdrop of sequestered innocence. Eye-opening in nature and brutal in its approach to exposing the truth, this is an insight into the Western privileged illusions of safety and the shattering of this misconception about the world.

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