I can’t remember the last time I read a novel that led me to such contradictory reactions. In some regards, I found Blink Once to be utterly refreshing in its genre. It doesn’t read like a typical young adult paranormal, and that’s not merely due to the rare inclusion of a male narrator. On the other hand, nearly every aspect of Blink Once is insufficiently explored, inadequately explained, and just plain incomprehensible. Add to that an insufferable female protagonist and thinly-veiled instalove, and I was left on unsure footing regarding how to rate this one.
Blink Once reeled me in with its promise of a protagonist struggling to overcome paralysis resulting from a near-fatal accident. Characters faced with disability make for fascinating character studies, especially in young adult literature when they are still young enough that they are trying to figure out how to cope with a physical or mental affliction in addition to the normal trials of the teen years. West finds himself in a particularly difficult situation when, upon awakening, he finds
that he is intubated and, thus, can’t even talk. His narration is understandably disoriented for the first few chapters, yet as West becomes more acclimated to his current condition, the odd qualities of his surroundings become all the more inexplicable. At this point, I could see where Busby was trying to go with her narration, but unfortunately I don’t believe she succeeded in the effect she was hoping for. The first two-hundred pages of the novel are like a fever dream in their lack of logic, but while some stories can pull that off, here it was a hindrance rather than an asset. Instead of coming across as surreal, the story was merely incomprehensible most of the time.
That being said, the twist, when it came, was actually rather good and not one that I was expecting. Busby went to a place that most young adult authors are unwilling to go, and I’m glad that she didn’t recant on her decision. There’s no sugar-coating to make the ending more palatable. Things are as they are, and sometimes you must overcome one obstacle only to be faced with another. Still, Busby’s success in this one regard simply wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming flaws that lace the rest of the story. Though I was happy to see a new male narrator, his voice didn’t strike me as authentic. Olivia’s character was meant to be mysteriously intriguing, but she came across to me as unhinged and detestable; needless to say, no amount of explanation could have led me to understand why West falls in love with her, so I suppose it’s just as well that Busby doesn’t provide us with any explanation anyway. The supernatural elements were eventually justified in a rather cursory manner that wasn’t satisfying and left open more questions than it answered. One particular detail that bothered me to no end while reading was West’s failed efforts to persuade friends and family that he had been awake during his “coma.” While coma patients might be able to recall memory of things they heard while unconscious, surely they could not have memory of things seen if their eyes were closed and taped shut. Why West doesn’t simply describe some of the things he saw during his months in the hospital as proof of his consciousness, I’ll never understand.
In any event, Blink Once delivered on one very limited front, but unless you are strapped for reading material, I wouldn’t recommend you rush out to find this one.