Gone Girl was one of the top bestselling books when it debuted in 2012. In 2014, the novel was turned into a movie adaptation of the same name. For those few years it was a hot topic of conversation, but I remained clueless about what it was really about. So a few days ago, I picked up Gone Girl to see why this story hooked thousands of readers and viewers.
Non-spoiler summary: Gone Girl is about Nick, a down-on-his-luck writer, and his wife, Amy, who goes missing at the beginning of the book. Throughout the story, we learn more about their dissolving marriage and the problems that follow.
Mild spoilers ahead.
What Gone Girl does right: It’s different, that’s for sure! Thankfully I went into this novel pretty spoiler-free, so it was a wild ride as each piece of the plot fell into place. I guessed a few things correctly, but I was also surprised a few times as I read. Gone Girl is one of those books that you don’t want to put down until you know just what happened. It’s definitely not boring!
What Gone Girl gets wrong: I think this book veers into the territory of being edgy for edgy’s sake. This isn’t always a bad thing, but I probably would have liked Gone Girl better when I was a much edgier teenager than the person I am now. The characters aren’t likable- which doesn’t necessitate a bad book- but they also aren’t relatable, and that’s more of a problem. There are multiple unreliable narrators in this book, which is creative but also frustrating at points since they are so narcissistic. It would be like if every Game of Thrones chapter was from Cersei’s point of view: neurotic, self-obsessed, and delusional. (I just finished A Dance With Dragons and the comparison had to be made.)
Spoilers right here, so skip this whole paragraph if you want: Essentially this book is about two antagonists. You don’t feel right rooting for either Nick or Amy, and ultimately Gone Girl left me disappointed because of this. People really need characters- even villains- that they can empathize with. This is what makes shows like Breaking Bad so popular. Even though Walter White isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, he has problems that people can understand: trying to keep his family together and provided for, working jobs he doesn’t enjoy, balancing his sense of morality with the shady business he’s getting in to. He’s at least interesting enough that you’ll stick with him through five seasons: what will Walter do next? How will he get out of this crazy problem he’s created? I didn’t feel this way about either of the main characters in Gone Girl. I wanted them both to fail, whereas when I watched Breaking Bad, I wanted Walter White to succeed in spite of the evil things he’d done. That’s the difference between a compelling antagonist/antihero and one who’s not.
*I know that this is kind of a hot take on Walter White and that some people can’t stand him, so take it with a grain of salt (I still find him fascinating several years and rewatches later).
Who should read Gone Girl: Readers who enjoy thrillers, dramatic twists, and trying to figure out mysteries.
Who shouldn’t read Gone Girl: Readers who want relatable or moral characters. People who only want one narrator to keep up with, or who dislike an excessive amount of language.
*Content note: language, some suggestive scenes, some violence.