We Were Restless Things
This book feels good on paper: an emotional premise, eerie writing, representation, and an excellent ending that ties into thematic ideas. I only wanted more ensemble cast, and maybe a bit less of whatever was going on with the romance.
We Were Restless Things follows the mysterious death of Link Miller by drowning… in the middle of the woods. In various ways, they all hurt from this: Noemi as she grieves for the boy she had feelings for, Amberlyn as she grieves her brother, Gaetan as he grieves his best friend, Lyle her friend, and new kid Jonah as he tries to find a place in their group.
The indisputable best part of this book is the amazing imagery. This book was eerie and the more fantastical chapters are wonderfully written. They remind me of the best of Maggie Stiefvater.
Noemi is asexual. This arc was by far my favorite in the book; she processes her sexuality in both healthy and unhealthy ways, depending on the time. The way her feelings about herself and more specifically, how people would perceive her, impacted her relationships hit me hard. When this came up between her and Jonah, it originally struck me as a romantic arc, but it’s really not; the focus remains on her development. I wanted a bit more out of her ending, if anything.
Some very solid positives over here. Unfortunately, this was not a perfect reading experience for me.
First of all, it’s a book that in structure does not pick up until around 50%. Until then, these characters are essentially just getting to know each other. This isn’t technically a problem. On its own.
But besides Noemi, none of these characters feel as if they have a significant or resonant character arc. Who are these characters? I don’t feel as if I quite know. But We Were Restless Things left me craving… more from its ensemble cast.
As we’re talking about the characters, I want to bring up romance. The dynamic between side characters Amberlyn and Lyle (yes, this is sapphic content) is solid and sweet. The other romantic dynamics… were another area. Noemi is, over the course of this book, technically lusted after by three different guys, one dead. Both of her romantic arcs are… frustrating.
Jonah and Noemi are a well-written couple, except when the premise of their relationship is so fundamentally unromantic. Yes, I understand that two stepsiblings who know each other from childhood are very different from two people who meet for the first time at seventeen. I get that. But as someone who has a stepbrother, one, this entire trope is just nasty, and two, this book uncomfortably leans into that element of siblinghood.
SPOILER (highlight to read):
[At one point, essentially, Noemi feels guilty about not wanting to sleep with Jonah, and when he traces the words I love you into her hand, she replies “stepbrother”. This… felt so incredibly uncomfortable.
Just. I don’t know. If you’re going to do a romance between step siblings, which I would generally encourage against
it has been done so many times you are not doing something new, there is no need to point it out like this.]
On a more positive note, it’s interesting that this book that was comped to The Raven Cycle also contains two main characters whose relationship is not based on kissing, though for very different reasons. It’s one of those accidents that would still make a wonderful essay about parallels.
To be completely fair to this book in criticizing it, I think I partially have shifted in what genres I prefer over the past couple of years. Had I read this at seventeen, high off my Raven Cycle phase, I’m fairly sure I would have enjoyed my experience far more. So if that’s you… this might very well be worth a try. It’s well-written, and though I wanted more from four of the five leads, they’re all likable.
This had some good parts. I just do not think I was the target audience.