The beginning of Everett, a mystery thriller set in a beautiful and prestigious college campus in New Hampshire, sets out with a soft, gentle tone. Author Jenifer Ruff introduces readers to Brooke, the perfectionist, an exercise instructor and a devoted college student who sticks to a strict regimen of studying and exercising that barely leaves any room for a social life. Anything that interrupts her schedule or distracts her from the pathway to success is dealt with… firmly. Early on, the book details the success and failures of college life on the Everett campus. I simply enjoyed reading as Jessica, Robert, Ethan, and Brooke juggle their studies and leisure activities, which sometimes come in the form of dating, parties, and other little adventures. While I searched for clues to any tragedy or upcoming mayhem, I became so engrossed in the everyday lives of the college students that I forgot about any evil that was to involve one or more of the characters. But then, the plot matures quickly. Brooke starts stealing, vandalizing, and cheating. She then becomes obsessed with performing dissections of cadavers, and her ambition to become a skillful surgeon fuels her increasingly horrific actions, all happening right under the noses of Brooke’s friends, family, and acquaintances and everyone else on the campus.
Don’t be surprised at the eerie feelings that overcome you as you are asking yourself if the things you are reading are actually happening. That’s one of the many reasons I love this book. Things change unexpectedly and drastically. I do think that I would have connected much more with Brooke if she narrated more of the story herself, particularly when she shares her thoughts and motivations during her transition from the perfectly innocent college student to a dangerous and scheming villain. But I love how the author portrays Brooke and how the events in earlier chapters merge with the ongoing plot, shedding light on unanswered questions and allowing everything to fall into place. I was intrigued at how the author shares the deep thoughts of each of the characters so skillfully that it was almost as if each character was the narrator, sharing his own perspective through his own personal thoughts and words. In sharing Robert’s reflection about his girlfriend Jessica, Ms. Ruff writes: “ She wouldn’t tell him the name of her perfume. She wanted to keep it a mystery, which he thought was sexy. What was not set was how she had gained a bunch of weight this year, which was really odd because he rarely saw her eat any more. Anything caffeinated-yes. Pills-yes. Food-no.” Through this description, I had a peek into Robert’s personality and learned how Jessica’s behavior and physical attributes may be affecting her relationship. This way of developing characters, done skillfully here, is something that I rarely see in other works of realistic fiction, especially when we analyze the motivations of a main character.