Mice – Book Review

It had to be quiet. It had to be private. We were mice, after all. We weren’t looking for a home. We were looking for a place to hide. – from Mice, page 1 –

Shelley Rivers and her mother, Elizabeth, are emotionally battered and bullied – Elizabeth by her ex-husband and Shelly by the schoolmates who nearly kill her. No one seems to be interested in protecting them. Justice for the wrongs leveled against them is elusive. What they both want is to escape to the country and hide. They purchase a English country home called Honeysuckle Cottage – a place which is remote and private – and enjoy their evenings together drinking hot chocolate, playing duets and watching television. But on the eve of Shelley’s sixteenth birthday, their quiet world is shattered when a creaking floorboard signifies that someone uninvited is in the house. As events unfold, Shelley makes an impulsive decision that will forever change their lives.

We think we control the course our life takes, we think we’re the captain of the vessel with our hand on the wheel, but in fact it’s luck (or fate or destiny or God or whatever we choose to call it ) that’s really in control. We might as well take our hands off the wheel and go to the back of the boat and sleep, because it’s this other force that really decides whether we make it to the shore or we sink without a trace. – from Mice, page 314 –

Gordon Reece’s debut novel is narrated from the first person point of view of Shelley whose self-esteem is at a low point when the book opens. She is awkward, overweight and brainy – the perfect target for bullies at her school. Reece reveals the worst that bullying behavior involves – teasing, physical aggression and a system that does little to protect the victim. And the narrative asks the question: What defines the bully vs the victim? Is it personality? Is it appearance? What is the crucial defining moment at which a person makes the decision to lash out at another human being?

Does the way we look affect our personality? Or does our personality affect the way we look? Does the warpaint turn the tribesman into a fierce warrior? Or does the fierce warrior put on the warpaint to advertise his cruelty? Does a cat always look like a cat? Does a mouse always look like a mouse? – from Mice, page 18 –

As the plot unfolds, both Shelley and Elizabeth will begin to re-evaluate who they are as they are driven to the breaking point. Decisions they make and the consequences of those decisions drive the narrative. The novel is certainly plot driven vs. character driven. Elizabeth and Shelley could be anyone who has suffered emotionally (or physically) at the hands of another.

Clearly, Mice is a psychological thriller, but I was surprised to see that it also became a black comedy of sorts. There were times I found myself laughing and then realized that what I was reading should not be funny…but it was. Twists and turns of plot keep the tension high until the final page.

I read this book over the course of one day – a very speedy read for me. Readers looking for a fast-paced, roller coaster of a ride will definitely enjoy Mice. This is not “great” literature, but it is highly entertaining genre fiction. The perfect summer read.


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FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher who sent me a copy of this book for review on my blog.



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  1. It sounds like this book tackles some serious subjects in a somewhat lighthearted manner. I’ll have to look for it.

    • Amused on August 22, 2011 at 18:41

    I think this book might give me the heebie jeebies. Things that go bump in the night kinda freak me out but the humor may break that up for me a little.

  2. After reading your facebook comment, I was so eager to see what you thought. I’m a little like Amused — not great at the bump in the night stuff. Glad you read it during the day!

  3. Im glad that it’s at least fast paced and enjoyable if not totally wonderful. The premis looks really interesting and I’ve been anxious to read your thoughts on it.

  4. How unexpected that it made you laugh! I think that just pushed me over the edge into purchase mode with this book. I have been seeing reviews around, and have been wondering if I would enjoy it, but your mention of black comedy has me sold! Great review!

    • Anna on August 24, 2011 at 02:06

    This is the time of book I like a lot! Thank you for the review, I appreciate it a lot when I get new ideas on what to read.

    • Amy on August 24, 2011 at 08:31

    I’m really intrigued about this book since you said that it made you laugh in parts. Yours is the first review I’ve read that talks about humor in this book. A psychological thriller that is part black comedy sounds like a terrific afternoon of reading to me!

    • Wendy on August 25, 2011 at 07:43

    Kathy: Not really “lighthearted” … but definitely some black humor in there.

    Amused: There are some gruesome scenes – if you don’t like things that go bump in the night, you should probably skip this one!

    Beth: It is a bit creepy – but I couldn’t put it down. If you are in the mood for a thriller, this is a fun ride.

    Pam: I actually liked it a lot – it just isn’t “fine literature” – but that is not why I picked it up!

    Heather: I actually think you’d like this one 🙂

    Anna: You’re welcome!

    Amy: It is an interesting read – I did not expect the black humor either 🙂

  5. Wow. This sounds like one of those books that I would actually have fun reading — but I am nervous it will be too scary. Was it scary or just fast paced? Maybe I could just read it during the day and hope to not remember it at night when I’m lying in bed with the lights off, haha!

    • Aths on August 26, 2011 at 20:20

    I’ve been hearing some good things about this book and can’t wait to start reading this one!

    • Wendy on August 28, 2011 at 07:33

    Wallace: It was not as scary as I thought it would be – there is the one scene when you know someone has entered the home that is creepy – but after that it is more fast-paced than scary…and the “victims” become less that and more vigilante…so that is empowering!!

    Aths: Oh, I hope you love it 🙂

    • Mom on August 28, 2011 at 18:54

    I’m so glad you got me to read this! I read it in 2 days….couldn’t put it down! The moral dilemmas intrigued me, and I had no idea how it would end. I found myself sympathetic to both characters, but could really identify with the mother. Wonder why!!! I had an emotional response many times, and was pleased with the ending!

    • Wendy on August 29, 2011 at 06:17

    Mom: SO glad you loved the book! We’ll have to talk about it next time we have a phone conversation 🙂 Will you pass this one on to Paula???? I think she’d love it too.

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