Book Review: Four by Four by Sara Mesa

Four by Four

Title: Four by Four

Author: Sara Mesa

Genre: Dystopian Fiction

Number of Pages: 241

Rating: A

Recommended?: Yes

Trigger Warning: Repeated Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, Animal Cruelty (for mature readers only)

This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read but it’s also incredibly well-done. I think it’s easy just as good as something like 1984 by George Orwell. Four by Four has a ‘low-key’ dystopian feel I really dig. Most of it seems like it could be set in the present but something is… a little off.

It’s set at a boarding school where the instructors are all hiding something and the bigger, stronger students regularly abuse and exploit the weaker ones. The first part of the book focuses on several of the students, and the second part revolves around a new addition to the faculty and contains allusions to the events in part one.

This book really focused on the dark side of human nature and there were times that were so upsetting I found it hard to read. The prose is straightforward yet powerful and even though the novel was an uncomfortable experience I found I couldn’t put it down either. It’s so loaded with atmosphere and the setting was so vivid it was like watching a really good movie.

If you’re looking for likable characters you won’t find them here, but I found the lack of redeeming characteristics in the protagonists to be thematically appropriate. I think this book was largely a cover buy for me (I mean, look at that cover art!) so I was lucky that the book ended up being a really good read.

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