Read Or Run: A Review Of The Couple Next Door By Shari Lapena

Read Or Run: A Review Of The Couple Next Door By Shari Lapena

A harrowing tale of a stolen baby or a flop of a mystery novel? You decide.

Recently, I joined a book club. Why? I don't know, but I did it and I read the book — kind of.

"The Couple Next Door" is an extremely well-reviewed book by Shari Lapena. I thought it was going to be a mystery novel like something out of Agatha Christie with Hercule Poirot. Let me tell you, Detective Rasbach is no Poirot.

This will contain spoilers.

Lapena sets up the scene immediately, right out the gate. I feel like the first few pages are incredibly overwhelming with their direct-action scenes. The main character is drinking. She's looking, feeling, touching, observing. The reader doesn't have much time to drink in the scene and get a grasp on where she is and why she's there. It's, in the ever immortal words of Teen Mom, too much too soon. We don't get to fully grasp what's happening between the post-pregnancy character of Anne Conti.

I hate to attribute her recent pregnancy as her only characteristic but, unfortunately, that's what Lapena makes the center of her universe. But that's normal for new moms and probably the only relatable thing about this entire character.

Anne and her husband, Marco Conti, are a young couple living in New York with a six-month-old baby girl named Cora. They're at their next-door neighbor's house, Cynthia and Graham, having a dinner party for Graham's birthday. Cynthia had requested that the Contis leave their baby behind as the crying would interrupt their dinner. When a babysitter unexpectedly cancels, Marco somehow convinces the brand-new helicopter mom that is was okay to leave their baby home alone. Somehow. He also convinces her that it's a good idea to drink. And that they should take turns every 30 minutes to check on Cora rather than ask Cynthia if they can just bring Cora with them.

Whatever. Super relatable.

After Marco and Anne have a fight without actually having a fight (a feat every couple somehow manages to learn), they turn around and head home, sufficiently drunk, to their front door unlocked and left open.

"Maybe you forgot to lock it, you've had a lot to drink," Marco says to Anne while the audience wants to hit him. What a particularly terrible thing to say. Of course, I think it's a particularly terrible to be new parents to a six-month-old baby and to leave her and home while getting drunk but, what do I know? I'm not a parent.

The couple discover their daughter is missing and run frantically about the house looking for her. For some inexplicable reason, Lapena has Anne hit their bathroom mirror and break it. This action isn't sufficiently explained, or explained at all.

Before the readers can really get into the heads of the Conti's and watch them unravel, the police are on the scene and it switches to the viewpoint of the Detective Rasbach.

Rasbach is one of those characters that is so little described, he seems like a prop. There are no descriptions about him, really. The readers don't get a sense of who he is and what he's about. In some novels, this allows the readers to step in and fill the shoes of the detective; in a way, these novels break down the fourth wall. Unfortunately, this is not Lapena's specialty. Her lack of characterization of Rasbach makes him cold and impersonal — and not in the same way that detectives such as Sherlock Holmes is cold and impersonal.

The best way to describe Rasbach's investigation is dull. He talks to old friends, he talks to neighbors, he talks to potential witnesses. The whole thing reads like a police procedural manual. He suspects the husband and wife because the wife has postpartum depression and the husband owns a business. The husband is a suspect because he owns a business. The police don't know the financial records of said business until after they already suspect the husband.


After about reading a third of the way through the book, I found my attention slipping. I knew that A, B and C would happen and then we would see X result. Then, three chapters later, A, B and C would happen again and then X would, yet again be the result.

One thing I think is the mark of a good book is if you skip forward far enough, you have no idea what's going on. I tried this trick with "The Couple Next Door" and found that not only did I still understand what was going on, I hadn't really missed any information. So, I skipped to the end and found that I still understood all of it.

If this novel had ended with an examination of why parents may make what we perceive to be dumb decisions as non-parents and how one small mistake can upend lives, that would have possibly redeemed the entire novel. But, alas, it didn't. The last three pages were a completely out of context, over the top, you-can-see-it-a-mile-away type ending.

All in all, this book had some good points. The foundation was laid well, but the walls were just built kind of funky.

Of course, Anne's parents happen to be millionaires that can afford to pay $5 million and then an extra $2 million in ransom for their grandchild. Of course, Cynthia likes to flirt with every many she sees. Of course, Marco's small business is in trouble. Of course Anne's parent's hate Marco. There's just so many "of course" moments while reading this novel.

I just didn't think the actions of the Contis or Richard, the step-father, were relatable in any form. Who gives a baby to someone they've known for, what, three days? A loon. If Marco had gotten a friend to help him with his scheme at least that would have been believable.

They never even explain why the accomplice was killed.

I would rate "The Couple Next Door" three out of ten stars and I don't feel bad about it.

Cover Image Credit: Love What You Read

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5 Books for Summer 2018

A List Created by Myself, A Self-proclaimed Bookworm

As an avid reader, I find myself foisting my favorite reads upon my friends constantly, so here is a list of five books I highly suggest picking up and reading ASAP for an enjoyable summer full of stories from horror to fantasy. These are in no particular order, but they represent some of my more recent favorite reads and rereads. Plus, stay tuned for a few bonus novels at the end of this list.

1) "The Lost World" by Michael Crichton:

While the movie was a major flop when it comes to the "Jurassic Park" sequel, but the book blows both films out of the Mosasaur pool. The plotline almost entirely differs from the film in all of the best ways possible. With more thrills, better dinos, and an amazing gas station scene featuring a dinosaur still yet to grace the silver screen under Spielberg's helm. Get out your dust brushes and don't miss out on uncovering this buried gem.

2) "The Martian" by Andy Weir:

A bestseller of course, but it's a book for more than the average space nerd. Anyone can relate to the humanity of a botanist attempting to survive on Mars all alone. The daily journal model helps put you in the crazy Mars road trips first hand. Sure it has a movie, but it's NOWHERE near as good! Nothing beats a good ole adventure novel, especially when it comes to pioneering life on Mars.

3) "Fairest" by Gail Carson Levine:

A delightfully odd retelling of Snow White, "Fairest" takes you on a trip through a world where beauty is defined by more than just your looks. Although the novel is intended for preteens, readers of all ages can enjoy this novel that twists in the end in such a way that you may question when Lewis Carrol came in to write a chapter or two. With the added perk of taking place in the same world as "Ella Enchanted," this very obscure version of a classic fairytale is miles and miles away from any other Snow White tale.

4) "The Kingmaker's Daughter" by Philippa Gregory:

The fourth novel in a series written about the generation before the famous King Henry VIII of England, this novel focuses on a girl who often missed the spotlight, the mousy wife of King Richard III, Anne Neville. So much of Anne's life is skipped over by most readers of historical fiction, yet her life was full of as much drama as a Shakespeare tragedy. I highly suggest reading the other five novels in this series, but no worries about the order, because almost every single one backtracks and focuses on other characters during the same time frame. By the end of this series, you won't know who to root for!

5) "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn:

By the thrilling author of "Gone Girl," this novel takes a much darker spin on a mystery. Based on a very disturbing nursery rhyme involving axes and shotguns, a cold case is reopened by one of the victims herself. It's so much better than "Gone Girl," so grab a copy this summer and read it in the bright sunshine!

I hope these novels inspire as many imaginative adventures as I enjoyed while reading them. The following titles are some of my other favorites that I highly suggest:

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan, "The Exorcist," by William Peter Blatty, "The Pact" by Jodi Piccoult, "The Kane Chronicles" by Rick Riordan, "Goose Girl" and "Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, and finally "Looking For Alaska" by John Green.

Happy Reading!

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You're Bound To Get An A On Your Exams With These 50 Songs On Your Study Playlist

Because you can't study in total silence.

As exams and due dates are growing closer and closer, what is more important than the playlist you jam to while you study? Here are the top study songs of the 2018 spring exam season.

1. Writer in the dark, Melodrama, Lorde.

2. Way Down We Go, A/B, Kaleo.

3. Feeling Whitney, Stoney, Post Malone.

4. Liability, Melodrama, Lorde.

5. Skinny Love, Fire Within, Birdy.

6. Born to Die, Born to Die, Lana Del Ray.

7. Saved, American Teen, Khalid.

8. Too Good at Goodbyes, The Thrill of It All, Sam Smith.

9. Suffer, Nine Track Mind, Charlie Puth.

10. i hate u, i love u, us, gnash.

11. Let Me, Zayn.

12. Sky Full of Song, single, Florence + The Machine.

13. Ferrari, Expectations, Bebe Rexha.

14. Peaches, Single, Family and Friends.

15. Despacito x Shape Of You, PTX Presents: Top Pop Vol. 1, Pentatonix.

16. Freestyle, Spaghetti Factory, Peewee Longway.

17. Back To You, The Edge, Mackenzie Nicole.

18. Lost in Japan, Single, Shawn Mendes.

19. In My Blood, Single, Shawn Mendes.

20. Wasted Times, My Dear Melancholy, The Weeknd

21. No Contest, Joyride, Tinashe

22. Soarin, Cosmic, Bazzi

23. Perfect Duet (with Beyoncé), single, Ed Sheeran

24. Perfect Places, Melodrama, Lorde.

25. Burning, The Thrill of It All, Sam Smith

26. Concentrate, Tell Me You Love Me, Demi Lovato.

27. Daydream, Foreword, Tori Kelly.

28. Deny U, Future Friends, Super Fruit

29. Queendom, AURORA.

30. Library Magic, Signs of Light, Head And The Heart.

31. Somebody Else, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, The 1975.

32. if i could i would feel nothing, digital druglord, Blackbear.

33. Islands, xx, The xx

34. Kansas City, Lost On the River, The New Basement Tapes.

35. Children Who Start Fires, Cannibals with Cutlery, To Kill a King.

36. Bad Liar, Single, Selena Gomez.

37. I Don't Wanna Live Forever, Fifty Shades Darker, Taylor Swift & Zayn.

38. Die Young, What Now, Sylvan Esso.

39. COPYCAT, don't smile at me, Billie Eilish

40. Bibia Be Ye Ye, Divide, Ed Sheeran.

41. Blessed, Freudian, Daniel Caeser.

42. Come Through and Chill, War & Leisure, Miguel

43. Oh Okay, Drip Season 2, Gunna

44. Incomplete Kisses, Process, Sampha

45. Wake Up, Henriality, Big Henri.

46. Say Something, Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake.

47. Betrayed, Single, Lil Xan

48. Something Foreign, November, Sir

49. Love Lies, Love, Simon, Khalid.

50. The Middle, Single, Zedd

Find this playlist here.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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