When seventeen-year-old competitive diver Ingrid freezes up and sustains a head injury at a routine meet, her orderly life is turned upside down. Now housebound and sedentary on doctor’s orders, Ingrid can’t sleep and is haunted by the question of what triggered her uncharacteristic stage fright.
The only thing she remembers about the moment before the dive is seeing Van, her neighbour, former best friend, and forever crush, on the sidelines. Then one sleepless night, she sees Van outside her window…looking right back at her. They tentatively begin “not sleeping” together every night but still living separate lives by day.
Ingrid tells herself this is just temporary, but soon, she and Van are up every night together, increasingly intertwined in helping each other put pieces of memory together. As Van works through his own reasons for not being able to sleep, both of them are pulled into a mystery that threatens to turn their quiet neighborhood into a darker place than they realized.
*I was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, big thank you to Cat Kenney at Flat Iron Books who reached out to me*
Trigger warnings: loss of a parent, child abandonment, substance abuse, underage drinking,
The Insomniacs is a compelling and unique coming of age story with strong character work, plenty of mystery and suspense which all kept me interested. I’m struggling to think of a book which quite compares to this one, but it was said to be a dash of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han and the iconic Hitchcock film, Rear Window and I think those are quite apt so if you enjoyed either of those then you might enjoy this book.
This book has a lot going on plot wise, and while I certainly think some threads are more successfully done than others, I appreciate how many issues are explored or at least attempted to be, within the book. I especially think the exploration of trauma, loss and grief was so touching. Ingrid has a regimented life and for the most part keeps to herself, not really allowing herself to open up to anybody and express how she feels and it all seems to stem back to when her father abandoned Ingrid and her mother years before. I thought it was so true to life and I could personally relate to how Ingrid decides to detach and protect herself not realising how much she’s missing out on in the process but through the course of book, we see her come in to herself, grow as a character and person and realise that it’s okay to ask for help and open up to her loved ones. I feel like this ‘conversation’ is so important and especially in a Y/A contemporary, I appreciate it’s there all the more.
I also thought the story was unique in comparison to other books I read because Ingrid is a competitive diver and I don’t read many books with a sports theme so this was a whole new world I’m not familiar with. It was so sad to read as Ingrid comes to terms with her injury and how she feels that without diving and competing, she has nothing else left to offer and how her genuine love for diving is combined with so much pressure and it all weighs so heavily on her.
As well as Ingrids character and journey, I really enjoyed the other characters in the book and how well done all the relationships in the book were. Ingrid, Van, Max and Wilson have known each other since they were children, as teens their paths have diverged a little but they come back together through events in the story and it was so sweet. I liked that we really got that these are characters who have grown up together and how much they care about each other, regardless of time spent apart. I liked Ingrid and Van’s tentative relationship, and how they slowly get to know each other again, if you like the estranged friends to lovers / childhood friends to lovers tropes then this is definitely the book for you. I will say I think the pacing of these sections was kind of slow at times and could have benefitted from a bit more action or movement, the slow burn does contribute a lot to the story so I understand why it was done this way.
While there are definitely elements of mystery or a thriller in the story, I feel like it’s more about Ingrid and her journey than a reliance on an intense or fast paced plot. The novel relies more on slow building suspense and little glimpses of the truth and I liked piecing these little details together. The focus on memory works so well to further the sense of atmosphere and the setting of the suburbs in Arizona work so well too, I felt like I was there on this little bit of greenbelt with these characters, staying up and surveying the abandoned house next door. It all just comes together really well and is subtle but effective.
Overall, I’m really glad to have read The Insomniacs, this isn’t a book I would typically read but I appreciate the chance to have read it all the same, there was a lot in this book which I genuinely connected to. While I don’t think this book is for every reader, I know there will be readers out there who will appreciate this quiet but solid novel and I hope it speaks to them in some way.
Until next time,