My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So I need to tell you something, and it’s something you may need to sit down for. I like school stories. I really, really do. I know right? It shocked me too. There’s something about the genre (something that I explore more here) that appeals to me and I think it is this. The school story is a tiny, tiny thing, set in tiny tight places with fixed boundaries and rules and demands and yet, when done well, it can be about everything in the entire world.
Byrne’s second novel after Heart-Shaped Bruise (my review of that is here) was something I’d been looking forward to ever since I heard on the Twitter that she was setting it in a boarding school. There’s not enough modern boarding school stories in this world, books that explore this genre and fling it at the shadows and bring you along for the ride.
Follow Me Down is something that I greatly, greatly laud because it does that. Byrne’s competence is unmistakeable and even managed to keep me hooked in, me who is hideous at figuring out ‘the twist’ in things and has to flick back a thousand chapters (always) to figure out what’s going on. Byrne’s got a really lovely solidity to her work, a thickness to her worlds that make them believable and make them very, very potent.
And what I really loved is that this is like the after-dark edition of a genre I rampantly love. It steps away from the double entendres and the genre mocking so many other titles seem to do, and it gives us a real and dark and powerful world where people cannot escape the things that burn them. Love, loss, obsession, lies. It’s all here and there’s nowhere for it go other than round and round until everyone’s caught up in it.
Byrne’s really good, you know? And everything should be set in a boarding school from now on. Everything. It should be a rule.