The Appeal

Author: Janice Hallett
Publisher: Atria Books
Date Published: January 25, 2022

The Appeal is the story of a fundraiser gone bad, told in a thoroughly unique way. Two legal aids are tasked with following the case as it played out in chronological order, through a series of emails, letters, and text messages. There is a large cast of characters, some with similar last names, and no chapter breaks, which made the reading a little slow for me. However, as I am familiar with both the world of fundraising and little theater, the author struck a chord with me. I loved the “whisper-down-the-lane” effect of people only hearing a snippet of information and repeating it as gospel (gossip). At first, I felt sorry for one of the main protagonists, Issy. She was described repeatedly as mousy, and she craved friendship that was often not reciprocated. But as we get further into the story, we find that everyone lies, though they would call it embellishing the truth. Issy included. The men in the book are focused on protecting the women. The women are competing to be the best. And the unsuspecting community who contributes to the fundraiser are wholly unaware of what’s going on in the background. I feel the book could have benefited by ending the correspondence sooner and/or providing chapter breaks or headings, but the story really picks up about 60% in when the legal aids are tasked with answering a series of questions to come to the proper conclusion about why a person murdered and by whom.

While the description calls this “a wholly modern take on the epistolary novel”, I think it would help readers to understand the format going in, but I’m giving this 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for uniqueness. Kudos to this debut author for keeping all the characters and plotlines straight.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for an advance reader’s copy.

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