Review: Six Stories
By the time I started listening to Serial in late December of 2014 all of the episodes had already come out, meaning I was able to listen to many of them back to back, creating more of an ongoing narrative than if I had been made to listen with days between each episode.
I liked the first season of Serial and I understood why it was so popular with audiences. Like many viewers I was pulled along by the combination of direct clips from interviews and additional information presented with engaging clarity by Sarah Koenig, all while hoping that by the end of the series we would all know what had really happened to the young girl at the heart of it all.
As a frequent mystery book reader I wanted there to be explicit answers, I wanted an ending that explained everything and allowed audiences to know for certain who was guilty and who was not. Real life is rarely that cut and dry. So imagine my interest when an author offers a chance to experience something like Serial but with a fictional twist.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski, Publisher’s Summary:
1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an Outward Bound center. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.
The book has a similar cadence to Serial, with the kind of narrative rhythms that seem to be de rigeur for reporters, interspersed with direct quotes that then need to be commented on.
As the interviewer tries to nail down exactly who the fifteen-year-old Jeffries was as a person he asks the different people he interviews to speak to the hows and whys of their time around the time of his death. For most characters this means revisiting their teenage years, and speaking to why they did and thought the things they did. Given that so often it’s only in hindsight that we see how inconsistent and complicated adolescence is I began to wonder if any adult could really give an accurate assessment of why they behaved the way they did when they were young.
There is an unexpected hint of mythology within the book that I enjoyed; the area in which the book takes place acting as more than a simple backdrop but another living breathing aspect of the story.
There was a moment (and as always I will keep my reviews spoiler free, but I share this in case anyone wants to discuss this moment after they read the book) in “Episode 4” when I had an inkling of what was to come. I suspected that a twist would be delivered in the final act, I suspected that I knew what it would be, and I wasn’t disappointed. (Please chat with me about this after you've read it!)
That’s not to say that I feel like everything got entirely buttoned up at the end. I ended the book feeling both satisfied by the journey I had just been on and also wishing that there was a place to discuss theories and thoughts like with Serial.
This is a book that could have felt like a gimmick, but instead the style worked. It was fascinating to see a traditionally nonfiction format applied to a fictional story, especially as the author opted to create a story in which more answers are given than is sometimes available in a real life case.
I give “Six Stories” 4.5 stars for being a compelling and engaging read that provided an interesting twist on sharing multiple sides of a story.
The book will be available in the US on June 1, 2017.
If you forget to add it to your TBR pile I'll be including it in a Summer Reads roundup at the end of May.
Thanks to Trafalgar Square Publishing, Orenda Books, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.