Readers should be warned: although it revolves around a teenager’s mysterious death, “Saint X” by Alexis Schaitkin is by no means a thriller or suspense novel. In fact, it’s actually more of a slow-burn description of how a young woman deals with the trauma of losing her sister. It focuses way more on feelings than a whodunnit.
The story behind this novel reminded me a lot of the Natalee Holloway mystery from 2005. Both stories revolve around a white American teenager who goes missing on a resort-style island in the Caribbean. Although Holloway was never found (and yes, I did obsessively watch the coverage of this case on “Nancy Grace”), the teenager’s body in “Saint X” is discovered, leaving her family to pick up the pieces after her death.
Instead of tracing the details of the case, this novel is told from the girl’s little sister, as well as from one of the main suspects (a young Caribbean man whose life is torn apart by the accusations). I felt like this was an inventive way to tell the story, but it did feel a little confusing because Schaitkin throws in a bunch of other side characters’ perspectives as well. It also felt misleading to have one of the perspectives be from the dead teen (which the reader eventually finds out is just imaginary from the sister’s point of view). “Saint X” would have been much stronger to focus solely on the sister and the accused man alone.
This novel definitely wasn’t a page-turner (and spoiler alert, there isn’t a ton of resolution at the end), but I did appreciate Schaitkin’s emotional writing style. Her willingness to dig deeper behind the characters was powerful and insightful. I’d certainly read more from her in the future.
*Free ARC received from Celadon Books in exchange for an honest review*