Review of The Delicate Things We Make by Milena McKay
Another very promising debut! We may not be living in the most joyful, comfortable world right now, but good books make everything better and I feel very lucky that I get to read so many of them.
Beggars can’t be choosers and when she’s asked by one of the most important fashion magazines to find who a reclusive but extraordinary artist is, struggling journalist Jamie signs her soul to the devil in half a second. Her investigative skills serve her well and soon enough, she’s met her target. Little did she expect to be so captivated by the woman that she’d rather date her than out her, or that in her search, she would uncover a seventeen-year-old mystery that led to two breakups and the end of a friendship. And that’s only the beginning.
The Delicate Things We Make is dedicated “to the survivors”, so be warned that it tackles sensitive and possibly triggering topics. There is no on-page rape or assault but these subjects are very much part of the story. It’s a love story and a #MeToo story, it speaks of strength and vulnerability, of taking back the power, taking back one’s life and also of letting go. And it does so with care, finesse and talent.
A common issue with debut novels, especially those that started their life as fanfic (as this one did) and especially those that are independently published, is pace and length. This book suffers from this to some extent, there are a few redundant sentences and paragraphs here and there, as if the author couldn’t decide between two rather pretty ways of saying things. Don’t, however, let these minor flaws stop you from reading. The writing is good. The characters have depth, they’re complex and multilayered. More than once I thought another author might have given Jamie a break but Milena McKay keeps backing her into corners and forces her to go further, to rethink what she believes to be right. There’s a very moving scene between Jamie and her friend Lucy – there’s another story there too – that really made me want to applaud Lucy for being so wise and kind (and funny). The story isn’t straightforward and I like that. The resolution doesn’t come fast and easy, mistakes are made, egos are bruised. There’s real character growth. The romance is lovely and, at times, raw, and there’s definite ice queen melting. Love scenes aren’t easy to write, and chemistry isn’t always obvious on paper (or in digital form, as may be), but McKay carries it off.
So okay, The Delicate Things We Make isn’t perfect, but it made me think, it made me happy, it made me mad. All good things.