With an MA in Creative Writing, several children’s books, and film editing credits that include Twelve Monkeys, The Talented Mr Ripley, and Seven Years in Tibet, it’s fair to say that Tasha Kavanagh is not your average debut novelist. Perhaps greater things are expected of her. With such an impressive CV, some might expect anything she pens to be an instant classic. So how does Things We Have in Common stack up?
Well, instant classic would be pushing it. But there is definitely an indication here that Kavanagh’s skill on the silver screen also extends to her writing. In Yasmin, the novel’s teenage protagonist, we have an interesting and well imagined character. Bullied and vastly overweight, Yasmin is also prone to obsession. She stalks Alice, a girl at her school, and collects items she discards in a shoebox under her bed.
But her obsessive streak doesn’t end there. The novel’s key premise rests on her obsession with another person, and this is where things start to get a little strange. When Yasmin notices she isn’t the only person watching Alice, she goes from trying to protect her from the creepy man in the bushes to following him home and transferring her obsession to him. When Alice actually goes missing, we realise just how far Yasmin will go to make and keep a friend.
Alice’s disappearance, though, is actually the point when the narrative starts to go slightly awry. When Yasmin was just fantasising and imagining that this mystery man wanted to kidnap the girl she was obsessed with, we had a complex novel dealing with the emotions and delusions of a lonely and tormented young woman. When Alice actually goes missing, we are supposed to believe that this messed up girl is better at predicting crimes that any detective who ever lived. It’s a difficult premise to completely buy.
Any Cop?: If you can dispel your need for plausibility, there are many things to recommend here. It’s well written, it has interesting characters, and it is well paced and plotted. But as well as being implausible, it isn’t entirely original either. It fits into an emerging contemporary trend in which a troubled and lonely teen gets involved in something criminal and disturbing while also revealing their innermost thoughts. It’s a decent and sometimes involving read, but there are better examples of this story already on your shelves.