Complicit: A psychological marathon

Chris McCormack, Staff Writer

“Complicit” is a novel written by Stephanie Kuehn, first published June 26, 2014. It follows the tale of a sixteen-year-old named Jamie Henry who is relieved when his deranged older sister, Cate Henry, is sentenced to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s horse barn.

Cate Henry used to be a rational girl, before she began to do many bad things, such as drinking, stealing, lying, playing bizarre mind games and tricks in the woods with other children, and making sure she got everything she would ever want.

He debates on whether or not Cate went crazy from a shared, traumatic childhood memory.

But today, Cate’s found a way to escape. And she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because even more than anything else, Cate wants to reveal the secrets of their blurred past to him. Particularly one secret. One that could threaten to tear apart what’s left of their family.

“Complicit” is different from many other novels as it follows a narrator that is slowly evolving psychologically over the course of the story. From the opening of the story onwards, one can see a juxtaposition of personality from Jamie to Cate.

But as the story progresses, cracks in the novel begin to appear. Through this narrative we are able to get glimpses of things that aren’t so wholesome; there is misogyny when Jamie talks about girls and about his own sister; there is a great amount of pent-up tension and anger. Is this unreliability purposeful or a carefully constructed web of falsities?

Jamie began to have many hand-related problems ever since Cate’s sentence was put to light. They just stopped working.
On top of this, every time Cate reaches Jamie and it seems that she will finally be able to reveal what is troubling her, he passes out. This goes beyond his hands not working. This is not knowing what he’s doing or what he’s doing except that Cate had been there. It is a defensive mechanism.

Throughout the novel, Jamie leads the reader to assume that Cate is the root of the problems in their family, the truth, however, is not that simple.

The threads of this novel are woven together seamlessly. We are aware of the problems the duo face, and we develop our own theories, but that isn’t the point of the novel. “Complicit” is about the experience. What is it like to embody mental illness and what does it feel like to be so mentally sick that no amount of help can truly help?

At a point the reader begins to fiddle with this more, who and what is really broken. This wonderfully weaves us through a riveting psychological teaser that is engaging and thoughtful, all the way down to an ending that is as scary and heart-breaking as it is impactful.