Being a huge fan of the crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense genres, a book like Ruthless is usually my go-to—especially when you consider the intriguing description and blurbs. Unfortunately, now that I’ve finished reading this book, I’m sad to write that it was just ‘meh’.
My main issue with this book is the writing. There’s too much telling and not enough showing that everything felt incredibly inauthentic. I couldn’t get into the story, much less Ruth’s mind or her emotions. It pretty much sealed her as a flat character for me. Additionally, there is a lot of repetition, which made the story and the characters even more fake. This literary device is used to make things clearer or to put emphasis on certain aspects, and it’s a very useful device. Even so, there is a reason as to why the saying ‘too much of a good thing is bad’ exists. Throughout the entire story, the reader is constantly assured that Ruth is courageous, that she is capable of being ruthless, arrogant, and mean. The second time this happens, it’s a good clear message. The third, fourth, fifth? It sounds like the author doesn’t know anyway to characterize her character better. This excessive use of repetition and the lack of showing in the narrative made what could’ve been an incredibly good and solid story, weak.
What further weakened the story is the pacing. Everything happened way too fast. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but there are a lot of strategically placed coincidences and even more questionable moments. Most of us may already know that the main character will make it out alive in stories like this, but we still read them anyway because of the things that can happen in between of Getting Captured and Being Free. With that said, it’s important for the author to make sure that their strategically placed coincidences are less strategically placed and more, ‘Holy cow, I didn’t see that coming! YES, THERE’S A LIGHT. Oh my goodness, the main character can still survive!’. When Ruth runs out to the forest, stark naked, and nearly gets caught by the Wolfman, a wild buck magically appears. Like wow, super wonderful and coincidental moment for a wild animal to properly appear in this story! Also, I understand that for the sake of survival, Ruth’s nakedness may be the last thing on her mind, but does she not worry—even a tiny bit—about bacteria and creepy crawlies at her nether regions? Like, she cares about her battered feet but not her nether regions? And leeches, are there no leeches in the Blue Ridge or the Great Smoky Mountains?
Aside from that, I didn’t really like the flashbacks. The shift from first person in the present to third person in the past, is rather disruptive. Jumping between points of view annoyed me a little since it made the story a little disjointed. I got used to it after a while but I think those flashbacks can be better incorporated into the present of the story instead. There were also some fourth-wall-breaking-like moments that bothered me because it felt like Ruth isn’t as immersed in her own present as she’s supposed to. By this, I mean that she’s a character who’s supposed to be stuck in her own story world but there are moments when she reaches out of her story world. For instance, this line in Chapter Two, “Oh, my redneck best friend Caleb, God bless you and your obscene collection of hunting rifles”. If this line is part of Ruth’s direct thoughts, it would make sense but since it’s part of the narration, the usage of the pronoun ‘you’ doesn’t fit. ‘Him’ would be better as Ruth isn’t a real-life person who wrote the book, reaching out to a real-life Caleb who may be reading her book.
On the topic of flashbacks, I’d like to point out that I find it unfortunate that the Wolfman’s reason for being the killer he is, is something so typical and clichéd as him—in addition to looking up to a sexist uncle who really cared for him—being abused and bullied as a kid. Logically, I know that anything can be a person’s breaking point, but as a reader, it’s disappointing since there are already many books using the same reasons for why their killers kill. Nevertheless, this reason isn’t one that influenced my rating of this book. Other than that, I found Wolfman rather lacking in the serial killer department. His pride may be his downfall, but seriously. For a seasoned hunter who also killed six girls and one woman, you’d think he’d be better at recapturing Ruth, particularly when you take the way he’s describe in the first few chapters into account.
With all that considered, this is still an okay debut book. It could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. Mostly, it was just ‘meh’. I don’t think I’d even remember the plot or these characters after a while.