I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished reading it. It has twisted my insides up (in the way a good book should) and I have to say I find myself quite conflicted about the story and how I feel about it.
Hushed is the story of two life-long friends Archer and Vivian and their complicated, ofttimes tragic, past. The two of them have what you would describe as a very unhealthy relationship. They have been friends since childhood and Archer has always protected and looked after Vivian - and she has always let him. Now both of them are in college but Archer still feels responsible for her. He would do anything for Vivian, he has been desperately in love with her for years although she has always kept their relationship in the friend-zone, pursuing relationships with one loser boyfriend after another while Archer has been forced to watch from the sidelines, always wanting more from her than she is willing to give.
Something terrible happened to Vivian years ago and Archer is determined to make those responsible pay - in the most final of ways. The book starts with Archer murdering one of the responsible parties so you instantly know this is going to be one harrowing book, though it does have its moments of levity. Archer is a sad and broken individual. He is at first an unrepentant killer but at the same time he is a young, unloved boy who has never really had anyone in his corner. The relationship between Archer and Vivian is very one-sided. She runs to him to pick up the pieces when her life is falling apart and uses him to bolster her self-esteem, but Archer does not really get anything in return from her. His father is dead and he does not have a good relationship with his mother. The only person who really gave Archer any support was Vivian's mother Marissa, who is deathly ill and fading more every day. Archer feels so isolated and alone. He thinks by 'taking care of' those who hurt Vivian all those years ago, this will allow Vivian (and by extension himself) to finally move on.
However, Archer is becoming more and more unhinged every day. The deaths are starting to take a real toll on him. Archer takes no pleasure from the act of murder, he doesn't even really feel the satisfaction he thought he would but he is determined to keep going until everyone involved is gone and the past can finally be put to rest. It is not until he meets Evan that his life begins to have some real meaning. Evan was a really great character, the light amidst all the darkness. He was the one who really gave Archer the love and connection he needed. I really liked the fact that there was not a big deal made about Archer beginning to have romantic feelings for another boy. He was in love with Vivian true but his feelings for Evan were so much healthier. Evan was a breath of fresh air in a really dark and disturbing tale and I feel the story would really have suffered without his presence.
Vivian was a complicated character. I felt a certain level of sympathy for her but as the story continued more layers were peeled back and she is proven to be a pretty heinous person, albeit one whose past has played a great part in determining her mental state. There is a point in the story though where Evan points out that many people have bad things happen to them and they do not allow their experiences to warp them. I have to agree here. I cannot give her a pass for her actions due to her past, even though there were some pretty horrific extenuating circumstances. The way she used Archer is what really made me dislike her. She was always pulling his strings, playing on his deep feelings for her. Archer believes that what happened to her changed her from the sweet girl she used to be but she freely admits to him that she enjoyed rubbing his face in it by flaunting her boyfriends in front of him so I am not too sure how much you can trust Archer's judgement here. Vivian comes across as a very manipulative character. It is very telling that she decides that she wants to be with Archer when she sees he has found some measure of happiness with Evan.
Archer too could be a little hard to take. His white knight syndrome when it came to Vivian began to get a little wearing and I was happy when he finally started to see just how much he had allowed himself to be used. I cannot fully fault Vivian for the way things were between them - he allowed himself to be used and mistreated by her and kept going back for more until he found Evan. I adored Archer's burgeoning relationship with Evan. It allowed you to see that there was humanity left inside of Archer and that he was not a complete lost soul with no chance of redemption.
The resolution was gutting, especially Vivian's fate. Although I really didn't like her character at all I wanted to see her get the help she so desperately needed. I was also conflicted by my feelings with regards to Archer and Evan and their future. I really wanted an HEA for them, which really surprised me given how deeply Archer has screwed up his life. He was a killer - I feel like I should want him to be punished for it but I really wanted him to ride out into the sunset with Evan - argh my brain hurts just thinking about it!!
Overall I was thoroughly gripped by this story of revenge, twisted love and ultimately redemption. The writing was excellent - I really felt like I got into the skin of the characters. I am very glad I decided to purchase this and I will now be adding Kelley York's name to my list of auto-buy authors.