Book Review: “Sweet Damage” by Rebecca James

Warning: This book review contains spoilers for the book “Sweet Damage” by Rebecca James. Do not read any further if you want to avoid spoilers!

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Cover of “Sweet Damage” by Rebecca James.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Sweet Damage” by Rebecca James! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“When Tim Ellison finds a cheap room to rent in the perfect location in Sydney it looks like a huge stroke of luck. In fact the room comes with a condition, and the owner of the house, the mysterious Anna London, is unfriendly and withdrawn. When strange and terrifying things start happening in the house at night, Tim wonders if taking the room is a mistake. But then his feelings for Anna start to change, and when her past comes back with a vengeance, Tim is caught right in the middle of it.”

Trigger Warnings:

This book does contain mentions of attempted suicide, implied alcohol and drug abuse, death of a child, and some toxic romantic relationships in terms of partners abusing or manipulating each other. Also, one of the main characters has severe agoraphobia, anxiety, and is implied to suffer depression. If you are sensitive to any of this content, be careful while reading or skip this one.

Romance Development: 5 out of 5 stars

Character Development: 4 out of 5 stars

I found Tim and Anna both interesting to read, as well as Marcus, Fiona and Lilla. Tim was easy to sympathize with—he has his own family conflicts, he wants to live his own life the way he wants to, but he is also a kind person. He’s not perfect, but he does try to do the right thing. Anna has quite a rollercoaster in terms of character development, especially after the reader learns of her full backstory through flashbacks in her point of view, and though she does grapple with being around new people (like Tim), as well as the grief she carries in this book, she does try to get better. And Tim himself actually does try to help her and understand her, too, which carries well into their slow-but-well-developing romance.

Speaking of romance, two main relationships are explored—one between Tim and his ex-girlfriend Lilla (through flashbacks) and Anna and Tim’s relationship through the current events of the story. I like how there was a clear contrast to show how Anna and Tim’s relationship worked while Tim and Lilla’s relationship fell apart. As Anna and Tim grew more open and honest to each other over time, it’s clear that Tim and Lilla’s relationship didn’t end well because Lilla was being so constantly secretive and dishonest about how she truly felt about Tim. The lingering wounds of Lilla and Tim’s former relationship even carry into the main plotline, with Lilla still trying to string Tim along and Tim trying to figure out whether Lilla is truly being honest with him now, or if she’s just tricking him again. I found that contrast between the two couples to be one of the most fascinating parts of the book.

As for the other characters, like Marcus and Fiona for instance, I do like the depth we did get to have and understand how they fit into Lilla and Anna’s backgrounds, once we learn more of them and how they appeared in the main characters’ lives in the flashbacks. However, I kind-of expected more involvement from Marcus in particular, especially given his more intimate history with Anna.

Plot Development: 4 out of 5 stars

When I first picked up the book, I was surprised at how…non-supernatural this was, despite what the summary suggested with “strange and terrifying things.” Some of the events that happened, like the multiple spiders on Tim’s bed, the weird writing on the walls in red, seemed to lead up to an odd ghost-haunting or something paranormal. However, it was explained close to the end of the book that this was actually the work of Lilla, Tim’s not-so-good friend. Part of me was a little disappointed, but I also understand how it works better with the character development and that it lends into Lilla’s manipulative personality in the book as well.

Overall, the pacing of the plot was a little slow in terms of developing the overall current events of the book, but the flashbacks and changes of point-of-view were incredibly well-handled. The author made sure the changes in point-of-view between Anna and Tim were made clear not just through showing, within the writing, whose point of view it was in, but also through deliberately changing the style of font per chapter. I also think it was a smart choice to change the font in terms of showing off what kind of characters Tim and Anna are.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4.5  out of 5 stars!

This book is definitely an interesting thriller, with some surprising plot twists. However, do heed the trigger warnings listed earlier in this review before reading, especially if you’re sensitive to said content.


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