A Flicker in the Clarity – Book Review
Title: A Flicker in the Clarity
Author: Amy McNamara
Published: 12th June 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Due to the nature of this book, which is very character focused, this review may contain minor spoilers.
“For as long as Evie can remember, she and Emma have been best friends. They’ve gone through everything together—only Evie understood what it was like for Emma to lose her older brother in a car accident. And though they couldn’t be more different—Emma is the life of the party while Evie is shy—the dynamic has always worked for them.
But then Evie makes a careless mistake that ends up having serious consequences for Emma. They’ve had their squabbles before, but this is different. When Evie tries to apologize, Emma ignores her texts, gets a new best friend, and completely freezes her out. Evie didn’t mean to betray Emma in the way that she did, and she’s desperate to get back in Emma’s good graces. Who is Evie without Emma?
Then Evie meets Theo, a kindred spirit unlike any boy she’s ever encountered. With him, she can at least pretend like her life is normal. But just as she’s about to let go and fully fall into whatever is happening with him, Emma resurfaces, miraculously letting Evie back in—though it’s not without consequence. Erratic behavior, drunken incidents, and panicked late-night calls are only some of the hoops Emma makes Evie jump through. All Evie has wanted is to get her best friend back—but Emma seems hell-bent on self-destruction. Evie is used to swooping in to pull Emma out of her troubles, but how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be saved?”
A Flicker in the Clarity was not the story of friendship that I expected or have found to be typical of the YA Contemporary genre. From being young, impressionable children through to adulthood we are told how important it is to be a good friend but at what point does the cost to ourselves become too great? In her second novel, Amy McNamara shines a light on the dangers of toxic relationships and provides her readers with moral dilemmas that will stay with them long after they put the book down.
All of the characters in A Flicker in the Clarity are flawed, from the protagonist Evie to her best friend Emma, through to their parents and even the wider supporting characters. The flaws certainly add to each characters realism but, more than that, they play an integral part in the novel’s exploration of relationships. Evie is an interesting character because she feels very neutral; a seemingly decent person but not strongly likeable nor dislikeable yet I still find her easy to identify with. I believe that Evie had to be written in this manner because as a reader we are meant judge her and the decisions she makes throughout the novel more so than the average protagonist. Emma on the other hand I have very little tolerance for and couldn’t help but judge her very early on in the story. Perhaps she reminds me far too strongly of girls I met growing up. Emma is the sort of character that you can love to hate. She isn’t evil or necessarily even a bad person with ill-intentions but she is definitely not a good friend.
Evie and Emma’s relationship is at the heart of the novel and is the main plot focus. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of their relationship with Evie’s other relationships, especially her new love interest Theo and her long-time friend Jack. There is a lot of tension and emotion in all of the relationships, which are often entwined.
I have seen some readers suggest that A Flicker in the Clarity is mainly focused on ‘teen angst’, which I disagree with. For me, the issues raised in this novel go way beyond ‘teen angst’. I see the themes leaning far more heavily into mental health issues and the severe pressures that toxic relationships can have on the lives of young adults. Emma clearly has a lot of big issues to deal with but instead of the adults around her identifying how severe these issues are and trying to find her the right help, everything is dumped on to the shoulders of her best friend. Evie has her own life struggles and is constantly stuck with the moral dilemma of having to do the right thing by her friend or attending to her own needs. I think that this is a struggle that we all face at times. We feel selfish for taking care of ourselves and that is not right nor fair. The question that I asked myself over and over again whilst reading was when is saying no the right thing? Where are the lines of friendship drawn? When is enough, enough? I didn’t expect to become as emotional involved with the issues raised in this book as I did but I am still thinking about them.
A Flicker in the Clarity is a little longer than the average YA Contemporary Fiction novel at 423 pages. It was an extremely easy read and I have to commend Amy McNamara on her structure and pacing. I love how the chapter names contain small snippets of text from each chapter. They are like little clues where you can sometimes guess their meaning and other times you enjoy finding out the context as you read. The chapter lengths worked really well, giving the reader a lot of variety and perfectly containing individual moments.
I don’t think A Flicker in the Clarity is a book where you will fall in love with the characters despite the novel being very character focused. The plot has twists but it is not action filled. What this book does is make you question your own actions, which I find powerful. It is unexpectedly thoughtful and sensitive as a novel. I really enjoyed reading this book and I would definitely recommend it to readers who like to get into the head of characters.