Fun fact: There are two of my books that I never did BCI for! Here’s the first one!
Why Nick might be hard to identify with: We’re invited in this first chapter to assume that he’s killed his wife. By the time we’ve found otherwise, we’ve got lots more reasons to dislike him, such as the fact that he cheated on her.
- Sure he’s creepy, but he’s creepy in oddly specific ways. Here’s the opening paragraph: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily.” He’s a thoroughly convincing creep, because he notices things non-creeps just don’t notice.
- “At that exact moment, 6-0-0, the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-God self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains. Accusing: You have been seen. You will be seen.”
- He feels guilty about everything. He has been seen, and will be seen, which turns out to be prophetic, as he will be the subject of national scrutiny shortly.
- He’s in a bad marriage: “One of us was always angry. Amy, usually.”
- He’s lost all to the modern world: “Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back when anyone cared about what I thought. … I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. All around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy.” Flynn used to write for Entertainment Weekly, so she’s mining her real-life experience for pain she went through and gifting that pain to her character so that he will be more sympathetic to us
- He moves home (supposedly) to take care of his mom. He says to his twin sister Margo, “I’ll come back, Go. We’ll move back home. You shouldn’t have to do this all by yourself.”
Why Amy might be hard to identify with: She seems a little dippy, and unliberated.
- Crucially, we don’t hear her speak in modern day, Nick just sums up their brief morning conversation without quoting her, so modern-day Amy is not real to us yet. If we’d heard her talk there, and she was well-characterized, and then we jumped back to the diary, we might have been able to guess that the diary was fake.
- Once we arrive at the diary, we get a totally different voice from Nick, with exclamation points and nonsense words: “Tra and la! I am smiling a big adopted-orphan smile as I write this. I am embarrassed at how happy I am, like some Technicolor comic of a teenage girl talking on the phone with my hair in a ponytail, the bubble above my head saying: I met a boy!” This is also a thoroughly convincing voice, partially because it is so different from Nick’s.
- We’ve sensed from the title, from Nick’s creepiness, and from the words “The Day Of” that she’s going to disappear in the present day.
- In her diary from five years earlier, she’s embarrassed that she’s surrounded by “real” writers, but she just writes quizzes for women’s magazines.
- But then she points out that she actually can write: She says in parentheses: “(Adopted-orphan smile, I mean, that’s not bad, come on.)”
- Indeed, she has good observations: “Carmen, a newish friend – semi-friend, barely friend, the kind of friend you can’t cancel on – has talked me into going out to Brooklyn” She’s perceptive in a totally different way than Nick. She’s emotionally and sociologically perceptive, he’s physically and economically perceptive.