84,780 words, 374 pages, 66 Chapters, 5hrs 40mins to read
1,284 average words per chapter, 5.6 average pages per chapter
Published by Bookouture
4.01 out of 5 on Goodreads
Our rating: 3 out of 5
“Sometimes you also have to pretend to be someone you’re not.”
Nelle Lamarr, The Family Guest
What is The Family Guest About?
The Family Guest is by American Author and producer, Nelle L’amour, the debut novel under her pseudonym name, Nelle Lamarr. This is a multi-pov that follows the Merritt family, they live in the Los Angeles area and take on a British exchange student, but there is more to it than just it being from the kindness of their hearts (well, the mums heart, Natalie’s). Tanya, the exchange student, was picked because she looked just like Anabel, the daughter that Natalie and Matt recently lost in an accident.
It gets even more complicated when tensions rise between Tanya and Paige, Matt and Natalie’s other daughter. It seems that the two of them don’t get along. Paige had her suspicions that Tanya is not who she says she is and is hiding something big, and Tanya seems to have it out to ruin Paige’s life.
Everyone is hiding secrets, everyone has their suspicions and no-one is certain of what to do next. It soon becomes clear that some of them are not who they claim to be…
What is Bad About The Family Guest?
We will start with what I feel didn’t work or that I didn’t like. In some cases I found the characters continuity to be sloppy with one example being where Tanya clearly comes back from school, she and Natalie have a conversation, and Natalie is drinking wine and thinks to herself that even though they shared wine last night, she is not going to offer any to Tanya. Not on a school night. Then what was last night if not a school night Natalie? – Okay, maybe this one got me a wee bit more triggered than it should have but, come on Natalie, focus.
It felt very infuriating with how the Merritt family as a whole seemed to let Tanya get away with basically everything. Even when it was clear as to what she was doing. Natalie especially, just turned a blind eye or excused it all. Maybe this was intentional, maybe this was because Natalie was grieving the loss of Anabel, but either way, this was frustrating with how little Paige was to be believed, and how easy it was for Tanya to manipulate (especially Natalie) into doing whatever she wanted.
I listened to this, so maybe this is more of an audiobook problem than a physical one, but I found that following the timeline to be confusing and hard to follow at points, which did not help with some of the storylines. There was one in particular, where Natalie would constantly bring up the fact that she was hiding something from everyone, and if they knew, especially Matt, they would leave her. She would be part of the family no more, she would be single, she would be… (Yes, it goes on like this everytime Natalie has this brainwave). But the timeline became confusing when Natalie had one of these monologue thoughts after a certain revelation was revealed about her husband. Would she really be feeling the same way after this point?? And Natalie seemed to overly trust this teenaged girl whom she had only known for a couple of weeks, got wine drunk with and shared things with that she doesn’t even share with her actual daughter or husband…
Throughout, there were a lot of references to basketball, which in itself is not a negative, but what was, was the constant references to the late, great Kobe Bryant. The only reason I mention this, is because I found it very distracting from the story and completely unnecessary. Especially when Paige went into detail the breakdown she had. I appreciate the feelings the character could have had during this time, but personally I thought this was overkill and did set my teeth on edge. There are a lot of ways you can showcase the character’s love of basketball (which the author did do on other occasions) but to try and add the passing of Kobe Byrant and his daughter felt too on the nose for me to sit comfortably with.
The parents were annoying, and very self-centered, only thinking and wanting to deal with their own problems. Anything that had to do with their children seemed at times like it was too much effort. And sometimes, this included Will, yes Will. The sometimes forgotten, over-powered 12 year old brother and son of the Merritt family. Early on, he only seemed to only be involved when it was required to help the plot move along, so much so that I forgot that he was even there… And then during the second half he became overpowered, with his understanding of people and technology, and just scored the win and helped to save the day.
What’s so Good About The Family Guest?
Despite all of this, however, it was absolutely captivating. I was hooked to get to the end to learn about it all. It was a very fun read and was funny in places and had me audibly laughing out loud at times. I did actually look forward to going back into the story and uncovering more about all of them, just sometimes it was not for the better. While some of the story and twists were predictable, there were some parts of the story that just had me guessing throughout.
The relationship between Paige and Will was adorable, the way they would have each other’s backs was awesome and I enjoyed reading about their detective work, truly embodying the characters of Sherlock and Watson that they were pretending to be.
It was fun to listen to the drama and the teenage angst. It made it almost fun to read about their drama, their dysfunctional relationships and just joining in on the eyerolls about some of these characters’ decisions and motives.
I came for the intriguing premise, and stayed for the mystery, even in spite of the annoying characters.
Overall, this had a very interesting premise, it just felt poorly executed in places. Either through cheesy dialogue or terrible character motivations, it just lacked that punch to take it to a higher rating.
The mystery element was frustrating at points, and seemed to only be drip fed when the “side” story seemed to dry up. And even then it was done in quite an unsatisfying way. It force fed this thought from Natalie, that there is this secret that she can not tell anyone, no one, not a soul, or they would all leave her, they wouldn’t look at her the same way. (Repeat a few more times for some dramatic effect and you have in essence what the majority of the first 2/3rds of the book is…)
But it still is a fun and good read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading characters full of teenage angst and drama. With an added bonus of actually laughing out loud in places. This was a page turner, and I really looked forward to learning more about the story and what their secrets were, but unfortunately as a whole, it just had too many faults for me to rate higher than the 3 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley for the early access in exchange for an honest review.
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