You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames (2013) Awhile back I purchased this short novel on my liquid crystal reading device—I must have just read something about or by Jonathan Ames, and it was likely quite inexpensive. Then I forgot about it until last spring when I saw the movie (by the same name; there is a review of it on this website) adapted from this novel, and I remembered that I had an Ames book waiting for me, looked, and to my delight, it was this one. Normally I'd prefer to read the novel before seeing the movie, but it didn't happen that way this time—and it was impossible to read it without thinking about the choices and changes made in the adaptation. I didn't think too much, though, because I zipped right through this book, like eating a bag of Cheetos after work. I read or heard that Ames said he wanted to write a kind of traditional “page turner”—he certainly did that. The book is concise, well-written, and wastes no words whatsoever—never gets too fancy or cute—and even though he gives you background on this character—a damaged veteran who is highly specialized in recovering children who've been sold into prostitution—it never bogs down in any kind of excessive backstory or development. It's pretty much non-stop action, consistently suspenseful, and extremely violent. I think the matter-of-fact description of how the guy operates keeps if from feeling too disturbing though, and it's fascinating throughout. I'm not a fan of violence—I've had to stop watching several highly thought-of television series' because, yes, I thought they were actually harming me. Also, I'm suspicious of the “page turner” novel—the last time I read one was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch—and as much as I liked it, I felt I was being manipulated by an excellent craftsperson. But I'll read more by her, who I'm pretty fascinated with, and by Jonathan Ames, who I'm also pretty fascinated with—hey, maybe these two should date.