The Obsession, by Jesse Q. Sutanto

TRIGGER WARNING: This review contains mention of domestic abuse and stalker behavior. You have been warned.

It’s been a while since I read a really good thriller. Although I probably would not have read today’s book if I had not recently become quite interested in true crime.

To pass the time at work, I have begun listening to true crime podcasts, audiobooks, and stories about serial killers, stalkers, cults, and other dangerous individuals. The depravity of human nature is so darkly fascinating to me, and I find myself constantly looking for stories that display the deepest, darkest, most horrific examples of how dangerous humans can be.

Every true crime fanatic has their fix, and mine is stalkers. I always wonder what causes an obsession to be born, what lengths a stalker will go to obtain information on their victim, how deep their delusion goes, how they will manipulate and isolate their victim until they are completely helpless, and so on. Listening to true stalker stories has given me some chilling examples of how utterly terrifying stalkers are, and today’s book is another, albeit fictional, reason to close your windows and lock your doors.

When Logan meets his classmate Delilah, his life instantly changes. He knows that Delilah is his soulmate, and only he can protect her by watching her through a camera and stalking her social media. What Logan doesn’t know is that Delilah is not the simpering damsel-in-distress he thinks she is. Delilah has a troubled past of abuse and loss, and she has had enough of that. So when Logan becomes an obvious threat, Delilah will show Logan that he messed with the wrong girl…

It’s been so long since I tore through a book in less than a day. I kept telling myself to be productive and focus on other things, but guys, this book had me in its claws. I wanted desperately to see how Logan’s obsession would progress and how Delilah would try to outsmart him.

It has also been a while since I hated a book character so much for all the right reasons. I can think of several characters I wasn’t supposed to hate with all my being, but Logan broke me. He is so delusional and so far gone that you wish you could shake him, slap him, yell at him, anything to shake him from his fantasies. I had to take a deep breath before all his chapters because I knew I would have a physical reaction to his deluded narcissism.

Especially because Logan thinks that everyone else but him is a creep. He drops jokes about someone being a perv or a narcissist, and it makes you hate him even more for not realizing that he is the problem. Which, I guess, is one such trait of being a narcissist, isn’t it?

Logan is especially hateful because he can charm his way into anyone’s heart, never ever letting his true nature slip through. And poor Delilah cannot even tell anyone about him because Logan will blackmail her.

You see, Logan catches Delilah doing something that could get her in serious trouble, and he tells her that if she ever tries to defy him, he will show his proof to the police. So Delilah is truly trapped, with no allies to save her.

Delilah has some serious growth in this book. She starts out under an abusive father figure who eventually leaves the picture, only to end up in another abusive relationship with Logan. So it is easy to understand why she snaps and decides to do something about Logan.

Let’s just say by the end of the book, you kind of feel scared of Delilah. There is a scene where she watches a snake eat a rat in a tank, and the parallel is obvious way before Delilah delightedly points it out. But you also hope that somewhere in a sequel book she will receive the therapy she needs after this terrifying ride. Especially after watching the things she does to get Logan out of the way.

The pacing of this book is amazing. When you first meet Logan, he sounds just like an innocent teenage boy with a crush, but the book gradually peels back the layers of his delusion. You learn about the possible reasons he is obsessed with Delilah and how his previous obsession went wrong. 

Every scene plays out with every piece exactly in place. There is a scene where Logan forces Delilah to eat lunch with him and his friends, and Delilah remembers that she was going to sit with her friend Aisha that day. Normally, the writer would give that detail at the beginning of the scene, to draw a distinct line between Deliah’s normal lunch plans and these new ones. But that detail drops right into the scene at the moment that Delilah remembers it herself. The writer herself never drops in to explain stuff: it all happens exactly as the characters remember stuff, and it makes you feel that much closer to them.

The book also makes some important points about abuse and how you don’t really realize it is abuse until too late. Delilah talks about her mom’s abusive boyfriend, and her mom explains that the reason she never did anything was that her boyfriend gaslit her into thinking the abuse was normal behavior: that everything she made a big deal out of was actually nothing at all. After a while, she began to second-guess herself and believe that a huge fighting match was nothing more than a normal couple’s spat, and that no one would take such a thing seriously. It didn’t help that her boyfriend was a racist, misogynistic police officer and it would be her word against his.

It was a chilling conversation to read because I used to wonder why abuse victims do not immediately scream for help. And then I realized just how cunning some abusers can be at convincing their victims that they deserve the abuse or that it’s not abuse at all. Not that I have any personal experience with abuse, but I’ve read enough accounts at this point to have a better understanding of the matter.

And let me tell you, this book supports the notion that abuse and stalking are some of the most harrowing, terrifying things a person can endure. During this book, I was double-checking the locks on my windows and doors and making sure I had little to no personal information on social media.

In some twisted way, you want to feel bad for Logan, because his delusion grows so deep that he does not always know what he’s doing. And he is still a kid, with no true understanding of a healthy romantic relationship. But then you have to remember that he is putting a girl’s life at risk and he does not deserve sympathy from anyone except a really good therapist.

This book is ripe for discussion, especially when it comes to the characters’ choices. Did some of them go too far? What might have happened if someone had stepped in at a different time? Do the characters deserve sympathy in spite of the awful things they do? How would you react if you were in Delilah’s shoes?

It goes without saying I thought this book was awesome. The story unfolds almost perfectly, with secrets and revelations popping up like dangerous, out-of-nowhere summer storms. Except, unlike the seeming randomness of summer storms, these revelations are meticulously placed for just the right impact.

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