May 12, 2022

Kate A. Boorman: "What We Buried"

Title: What We Buried [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kate A. Boorman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2019
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Wild, unpredictable, spellbinding. Tackles human darkness, juvenile trauma and a damaged sibling relationship with honesty and depth.
Cons: Its non-linear timeline and complex (and partially open) ending may bug those who prefer a straightforward narrative.
WARNING! Violence, psychological abuse, ableism (countered), moderate gore, death by fire (offscreen).
Will appeal to: Those who can appreciate a book that messes with their heads. Those who aren't afraid to stare into the abyss.

Blurb: Siblings Liv and Jory Brewer have grown up resenting each another. Liv - former pageant queen and reality TV star - was groomed for a life in the spotlight, while her older brother, Jory, born with a partial facial paralysis, was left in the shadows. The only thing they have in common is contempt for their parents. Now Liv is suing her mom and dad for emancipation, and Jory views the whole thing as yet another attention-getting spectacle. But on the day of the hearing, their parents mysteriously vanish, and the siblings are forced to work together. Liv feels certain she knows where they are and suspects that Jory knows more than he’s telling…which is true. What starts as a simple overnight road trip soon takes a turn for the dangerous and surreal. And as the duo speeds through the deserts of Nevada, brother and sister will unearth deep family secrets that force them to relive their pasts as they try to retain a grip on the present. (Amazon)

Review: Christopher Pike meets Nova Ren Suma in what some reviewers have described as a "psychological thriller" - except I think we need a new label specifically for this book, because that one doesn't begin to convey what's at its core.


Honestly, kudos to whoever wrote the synopsis for this book, because it manages to give you an appetite for it (well, if you like twilight-zone narratives and damaged-sibling dynamics, that is ๐Ÿ˜…) without revealing its secrets. And both the actual plot and the writing deliver its promise.
I originally buddy-read this one with my friend Carrie (I reread it before writing this review), and oh, the amount of theories and speculations and nitpicking (in the best sense) we came up with. Liv and Jory's road trip in search of their parents (and of themselves, even if they don't realise that until much later) is spooky, unsettling, painfully real and yet warped in a way that makes them (and us) question everything just so. (Well, maybe we're questioning everything much harder/readily accepting that reality is broken, because we ARE here for the twilight-zone content, while they're trying to maintain a grip on their sanity ๐Ÿ˜‚). All the things they experience could have a (semi)logical explanation, until they don't. Is there a supernatural force at work? Are the siblings' minds playing tricks on them? Are they even (still) alive...or real? What about their memory loops? Did those things happen the way they think they did...or when they think they did?
To tell the truth, Boorman is quite honest in her deliver - the supposed false flags she plants end up being relevant, only not in the way we though they would be. And once we (and the siblings) figure out what's going (went? will go?) on, the payoff is absolutely satisfying. Though the ending will throw you for a loop (no pun intended...maybe ๐Ÿ˜‰) and leave you with...questions (thanks to Carrie above for helping me get my bearings with it, but...I still have at least one...). [...]


What We Buried equally hinges on the mystery/reality-questioning aspect at its core and on the two protagonists' relationship. I'll go as far as to say that, regardless of their sibling dynamics, both Liv and Jory are well-developed, interesting and (painfully) relatable in their own way, even when the darkness they try to rein in (especially Liv) breaks the banks with sometimes extreme consequences. Both have been through a lot, even if it's easy to dismiss Liv's trauma of living in the spotlight and being groomed for it, and to think that Jory, neglected by his own parents and shunned/pitied by strangers for his Moebius syndrome, got the short end of the stick; but in the end, we come to realise that both siblings have been abused at home and left at the world's (lack of) mercy, only in diametrically different ways. That can partly explain their actions, if not excuse them, and frankly...while I was appalled by some of those, a part of me was able to recognise the same anger in myself (even if for completely different reasons), and it got me thinking about how easy it is for the victim to become the abuser.
As for their actual relationship...Liv and Jory have the chance to mend what's broken and to communicate for the first time in years. The very outcome of their trip depends on how (and if) they manage to reconcile, which requires for them to be able to actually see and - of course - listen to each other. In that regard, What We Buried calls to mind a choose-your-own-adventure/videogame scenario, where different choices can lead to different results - except there's an amount of heart and depth in it that only a novel can hold. And ultimately, this one holds a lot.

For more books that defy categories click here.

The whole cover. Creepy and awesome...though it led to a series of
complex, ultimately wrong interpretations/speculations/theories
when me and my friend Carrie buddy-read this book ๐Ÿ˜‚.


  1. We read the same book! And both liked it!!! *Looks in the sky for flying pigs* lol

    I looked back on my review after reading yours and said this " the author kept tripping me up but never used it as a red herring or as a way to trick the reader."

    You used the term false flags but I loved how it wasn't used to just ooh look over here and waste the readers time. It did all mean something! Now, what it meant is probably up for debate lol but I liked the ending too.

    It's up for interpretation but it fit so well and had closure - of a sort anyway.

    there's nothing about this story that's my usual read or that doesn't typically annoy me but I liked it lol

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. "It did all mean something! Now, what it meant is probably up for debate lol"
      LOL, exactly! And it's astonishing that we read the same book, both loved it, and even had some similar thoughts about it ๐Ÿ‘€.

      Boorman has a new book out this July, called Into the Sublime:
      I can't wait to read it! Maybe this one is even less up your alley than What We Buried was supposed to be, but she proved to be an amazing author who knows how to spin an intelligent story, so who knows!

    2. My reading tastes are all over the place right now so who knows lol

  2. I really enjoyed reading your review. :) I like books that are Twilight-zone inspired or are similar to the Twilight Zone so I will be sure to check it out.

    1. Oooh, I hope you like it! And thank you ๐Ÿ™‚.

  3. This sounds very good, I'm always up for the dark stuff! Plus that cover is creeping me out! Excellent review๐Ÿ˜

    1. Ha! The cover is a masterpiece! So is the book.
      Thank you! ๐Ÿ’š

  4. Ooh here's the review! And yes this one DEFINITELY messes with your head! I'll admit I kinda did want a supernatural angle because that's how I roll... especially with the Nevada desert scene. And how freaky was it when they started seeing the same stretches of road? I was a little disappointed in how that supernatural angle (or lack thereof) turned out, but still...

    The victim becoming the abuser as well... great point.

    The ending was a trip. I had some mixed feelings but I absolutely loved how mind trippy this was. It's hard to say too much because spoilers but the end... :):)

    1. "And how freaky was it when they started seeing the same stretches of road?"
      Yep! And all those glimpses of non-linear-time occurrences. Especially the ones with themselves...and the cat ๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

      "I was a little disappointed in how that supernatural angle (or lack thereof) turned out, but still..."
      Not supernatural in the normal sense, but

      the fact that they were "creating their reality" and finally managed to change it by mending their relationship and working together to save themselves in the last loop...freaking awesome! I mean, I love stuff like that LOL. Maybe straight-up supernatural works best for you.

      Anyhow, a book that one doesn't forget easily. I'm so looking forward to her Into the Sublime in July...I hope it doesn't disappoint!

    2. YES! And that's a good point. Maybe THAT'S where the supernatural angle comes in... I need to consider it in that light. I might have missed that point since it's been a while now since I read it... and yes I love that stuff too! :)

  5. The cover makes it look creepy.

    1. Ha! It is! But in a good way (which probably sounds counterintuitive, but...๐Ÿคท‍♀️ ๐Ÿ˜‚).

  6. As if being able to compare it to two authors you enjoy wasn't enough! Any book that can elicit so much discussion and endless theories has got to be a good one.


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