Books set in Europe, Family dynamics, Fiction, Monaghan-Nicola, Social Commentary

#562 The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan

 The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan

Kerrie Ann, or Kez as most people call her, never really had a chance in life. Her mother was pretty much one fix and one string of boyfriends after the other. From a young age Kez was tasked with delivering drugs. There was one bright ray in her life. A woman next door, who had been a scientist, befriended Kez and taught her about the wonders of science and the natural world, but sadly, this woman killed herself. Kez took a blue butterfly encased in glass and a bottle of cyanide, because that’s what the woman used to kill her specimens for study.

Kez grew up. She began taking drugs, mainly ecstasy. Soon she was selling drugs on her own. Soon after that she was involved with a man who was a little older and the man left her in a terrible situation. Kez and her friend Mark got revenge, but it was never what Kez would have picked in the first place. Mark is Kez’s drug brother. They sold drugs together and they tried drugs together.

Things escalated from there. Kez’s mom left and left her in charge of her younger brother. Mark became addicted, violent, and paranoid as time went on. Kez tried to make a good life for herself and her brother, but before she knew it, her brother was also into drugs and stealing things.

Kez at one point decided she would put an end to the hold Mark had on her, but could she really do it?

What I liked

This book is more or less about the UK’s version of “white trash.” Kez is a child born into bad situation, raised in bad situation, and found herself in a bad situation all due to what type of family she was born into. She was born into the poverty line, lived in government housing, started drugs and sex early, and ultimately wound up as a broken adult. There are people like this everywhere and while they sometimes do rise above this initial upbringing, many times they do not.

We tend to think of the UK as this posh place, maybe without the problems we have in the United States, but the UK has many of the same problems we do in the states. I liked that this book brought this out.

Kez was manipulated and mind-controlled to an extent, add drugs to the mix and she’s not necessarily in control of herself. I like that this book was able to describe, even if just a little bit, how Kez didn’t necessarily make all these awful decisions of her own accord. That doesn’t mean she’s without fault. This girl chose to take drugs and she actively chose to do the things she did, whether or not she was on drugs or not.

What I didn’t like

Kez is our protagonist, but she’s not good, that’s ok, no protagonist is ever all good. Kez has committed some grievous crimes though and that’s not cool. Some people may think it’s ok to glorify the idea of bad crime for entertainment value, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea. This story goes to show us that we can still feel sympathetic for someone who has committed the kind of crimes that put a person in prison, but that doesn’t mean we should glorify those crimes this person has committed.

Kez knows she was in the wrong and, in the end, she chose to be a bigger person. She chose to be a better person. That’s the takeaway from all of this.

Kez’s mother is one sorry piece of trash. If you have children, it is your responsibility to take care of those children and otherwise protect them. That means you give them the best you possibly can. That means you raise them up to be valuable members of humanity. That means you try to keep them away from things they might develop addictions to. This woman let man after man walk into the lives of her children. She let them be used in a drug ring. She then left them without any regard to how they would fare.

I’m sorry, if that’s all you’re going to do with children, don’t have them. Kez would have had a better chance at life had she been raised by her grandmother or even adopted out to a loving family. It’s not always a sure-shot, but when you’re already in a poverty-stricken family that makes you carry drugs, and they generally don’t care about what happens to you, then there are a lot of other situations you’re better off in, even if they aren’t the greatest of situations.

…and another thing–dialect has it’s place, and it certainly did in this book, but too much of it makes a book difficult to read at times. The dialect in this book went to show that Kez came from a poor area of the UK. It went to show that she was poorly educated. It went to show that she was around a bunch of other poverty-stricken and poorly educated individuals. I don’t necessarily think dialect was overused in this book, but I do think that anyone not familiar with the fact that there are people in the UK who actually speak like this, would find this book difficult to understand at times.


I’m glad Kez was the better person in the end.

Weigh In

Do you imagine that Kez ever stopped using drugs?

Do you think she stayed true to herself, or swayed in the future when times got hard?


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