My Rating: 5 stars
Where do I start with These Violent Delights? I absolutely adored it to the point where I’m not even sure how to talk about it. The book follows friendless Paul and charismatic Julian as they form an intense and toxic relationship that eventually leads them to murder. But that simple description does not do justice to this book or Nemerever’s skill as a writer. I knew within a few pages that it would be a 5 star read. Nemerever’s writing is rich and gorgeous and the whole thing is perfectly plotted. And this is his debut novel! I haven’t been this impressed by a debut novel since Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet, and that is seriously high praise.
The real stars of the show are the characters and their relationship. We learn about them slowly; Nemerever doesn’t reveal too much at one time, and we always have to read between the lines. They aren’t likeable people nor are they good people. If that’s something you need, this isn’t the book for you. I personally adore unlikable characters, and these two deliver. They’re cruel, purposely picking at each other’s biggest insecurities when they themselves are feeling insecure. The relationship is clearly unhealthy, but you can’t help watching and you don’t want it to end. And, strange as it may sound, they’re relatable, particularly Paul.
I do want to briefly discuss genre. Obviously this is part of the dark academia genre, but I’ve also seen it labeled as a mystery or a thriller. And I don’t think that’s correct. It’s not a mystery because we know that they commit murder right from the prologue. As in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, it’s not a case of whodunit; it’s a matter of how did we get to that point. While it does revolve around a crime, I wouldn’t call it a thriller either. It’s not fast-paced and exciting. This is a slowburn, character-driven novel. While there is suspense, especially toward the end, it’s not what you find in a typical thriller. I’d say it’s more in line with literary fiction. While it is just a label, I do think it’s important so that people don’t pick it up expecting a standard mystery or thriller and get disappointed when that’s not what they get.
Overall, These Violent Delights is an absolutely amazing book that I can’t recommend enough. It’s a great addition to the dark academia genre, and ultimately my favorite book of the year!