Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Publishing year: 2019
Note: I’ve received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
When rookie cop Ryan Quinn shoots an unarmed black man, it affects the lives of more people than just his own. While Ryan struggles with his guilt and tries to find redemption, the police do their best to cover up their mistake. The victim’s family is not about to let that happen; they want justice and the truth to be out there. When Jade, the victim’s sister, learns that there’s more to the story, she will go to any length to get her revenge. Matters get more complicated, however, when her estranged father Kelly Randolph shows up after being absent for years. After the loss of his son, he’s determined to make up for abandoning his family. However, his crime-filled past might catch up to him in ways he might not expect.
As you’ll gather from the synopsis I just wrote, this book deals with sensitive yet (unfortunately) relevant issues of racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m both European and white, and though racism does exist in my own country, the context is completely different. That said, I definitely appreciated that I learned more about the topic through this book. The way these police shootings especially disrupts the lives of (potential) victims is definitely this book’s strongest point. Though it was described to me as a crime thriller, the story mainly focuses on the domestic and emotional problems that arose as a result of the shooting. The personalities of Jade and the rest of her family were flawed, which made them feel human and realistic as they dealt with their emotions and the loss of their loved one. Even if I found Kelly to be rubbing me the wrong way a bit, expecting brownie points because he claims he’s a changed man. He meant well, I guess, so that’s probably a personal gripe.
Hands Up did not just provide a perspective on the victim’s side, however: Ryan Quinn is misguided due to his (privileged) environment and his initial world views, but he is not actually a bad person. I also appreciated his point on view on what has happened, which made this book rounded and more realistic.
That said, considering this was advertised as a ‘crime thriller’, due to the focus on the domestic drama, there was a lack of real tension. I wouldn’t advertise this as a thriller. It could have been a social commentary. However, though The Black Lives Matter was present in the beginning, it appeared to be moving out of focus in the second part even though justice was eventually served. Police corruption and social divide were present, but I think more could have been done with these issues, especially to raise tension and make the social commentary more profound.
Though above issues weren’t enough to justify my rating, my next issue does. In the second part, there are two characters who are suddenly thrown into a complicated romance. Though it’s clear that one character uses the other to get justice (which I did find initially believable), it was also made clear that the characters do love one another and it made me cringe. I think the author was trying to make two characters from different worlds see each other’s perspective, but I don’t think a romance was the way to go about it. It felt forced, rushed, and undermined the manipulative actions of one of the characters.
Though the prose is easy to read and does a good job of portraying the characters, I also felt the writing to be a bit too clinical; there was a lot of telling rather than showing, which meant that the characters and atmosphere didn’t come across as well as they could have. For some reason, I also noticed that Ryan’s perspective was written in first person, while Jade’s and Kelly’s were both written in third person. I couldn’t quite discern why the author had done this, possibly to create less distance between the reader and the shooter? I personally found it a little jarring.
This review might seem critical, but Hands Up definitely wasn’t a bad book. I appreciated the different perspectives and the insight it offered into the characters whose lives were disrupted. I do feel Clark could have handled the romance plot better and given the social commentary aspects a bit more oomph. I also wouldn’t market this book as a crime thriller — it lacked too much in tension. Instead, the book holds more merit in providing a nuanced view in a controversial issue along with insight in how such events disrupts lives.