BOOK REVIEW: ‘An Unexpected Role’ by Leslea Wahl

This was a very easy, enjoyable read, a summer romance crossed with a crime mystery with some satisfying character growth thrown in.

Rather amusingly, I inferred completely the wrong thing from the title and synopsis. Not being a theatre nerd, the word ‘role’ suggested to me that Josie would have to take on some ‘role’, such as caring for someone, that she wouldn’t want to do. So I spent a long time waiting (in suspense!) for her aunt or someone else on the island to get a terrible diagnosis, forcing her to grow up and start caring for them. Ha ha! I think it’s only a mild spoiler to let on that this doesn’t happen. ‘Role’ is used in the theatre sense! (Just in case anyone else was under the same misconception!)

Josie does grow up during the book (thankfully 😉 and therefore all the more satisfyingly) but the catalyst for this is other things. There’s quite a lot of excitement—I found the motorbike scene particularly heart-in-the-mouth and shocking.

Josie’s attraction to (and description of) Niko was so overwhelmingly physical and very much based on the stereotype that ‘Latin men are hot’ that it was a bit uncomfortable. BUT, since this reflects her state of maturity at the time, it isn’t unrealistic. It’s just good—if uncomfortable—characterisation.

Some parents might want to be aware that Josie wears a bikini at times and this is viewed as 100% normal. However, although Josie, in a convincing teen girl manner, is very fixated on appearances, the book is very clean (there are 2 kisses, one initiated by a boy, one by Josie).

However, I do feel that parents probably need to have a conversation with their teens after the book is read about when the use of torture is justified (or rather, that it isn’t, ever!). This is because (mild SPOILER) the teen heroine manages to obtain a confession from the baddie at the end through the use of impromptu, but pre-meditated and sustained, torture, albeit of an unusual nature.

It is never named as ‘torture’, but it is—in fact, it is potentially life threatening—and the fact that there is no discussion about what happened clearly implies that because the baddie had done evil things and would probably otherwise have got away with it, the torture was therefore justified. Whilst it would be hard not to read the scene and sympathise with Josie’s desperate desire to save the day, save her friends and the innocents affected, and set things right, I couldn’t help feeling she had crossed an ethical line here. The ‘end justifies the means’ message made me very uncomfortable and I really wished the author could have written the ending differently.

Overall, though, a very enjoyable read, providing a good lead into discussion of a challenging—but important—moral topic.

 

[I am acquainted with the author through author groups but purchased my own copy of this book to read and review. Opinions my own.]

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