One of the best features of the novel FRACTALS by Alicia Anthony is it covers new ground while exploring aspects of society that have been with humanity for far too long, including child abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics and the highly illegal yet also lucrative trade of trafficking women and girls for sex and the individuals who often must be coerced in some manner in order to participate.
The plot of FRACTALS revolves around teenage Carly Dalton, who becomes involved in the world of prostitution via her drug-addicted sister Beth, who has gone missing. Chapters depicting Carly’s perspective alternate with those offering high school teacher Asher Thompson’s point of view. Asher initially rescues Carly at a truck-stop bar, becoming her mentor, protector, crush, and temporary guardian. While the subject matter is timely and important, unfortunately various features of this psychological suspense tale–as well as its characters–are depicted unevenly and not always believably. This significantly weakens the book’s overall impact. Scant attention of any depth is given to the part of the equation comprised of the story’s antagonists. Emotions like guilt are often stated rather than shown in context. Practicalities related to what type of social service placements would genuinely be allowed for the teenage main character, along with other logical issues abound. Common wisdom maintains it is generally not in the best interests of sexually troubled or otherwise distressed teenaged girls to be placed in the temporary homes of single adult males, especially those who have not yet adequately dealt with psychological damage of their own.
If these characters happened to be random strangers away from the eyes and interference of local authorities, the concept of two forgotten misfits coming together to solve a mystery while helping each other heal could certainly work. But that is not the situation. In this story, Asher is a science teacher at the prestigious Millbrook Academy, a private school Carly attends and where Asher is her Biology teacher. So from early on, the police department and Children’s Services are involved. This sadly causes much of the subsequent storyline to read as quite implausible, as do additional facets stretching credulity, such as the new high school best friend Carly effortlessly and immediately acquires.
While the dialog is generally crisp and evocative and the issues surrounding kids from abusive homes needing safe ones is compelling, these vital topics are not consistently well nor realistically handled in Alicia Anthony’s psychological thriller FRACTALS.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader