Book Review: Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh
Tasha Kavanagh’s Things We Have in Common is an unsettling but riveting novel about loneliness, about being made to feel different but still wanting to belong, about the desperate need for friendship and making human connections and, ultimately, about obsession. If you’ve ever felt outside a clique or the in-crowd, as if you’re one of life’s observers, destined to be a loner and never in the middle of things where the action is, or you’ve worried about someone else who is, then this is a disturbing take on where that all might lead.
Yasmin would give anything to have a friend . . .
And do anything to keep one.
The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, but then you looked up, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor. I was no different. I used to catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her silky fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.
If you’d glanced just once across the field you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own, looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me.
But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.
Yasmin’s certainly not an easy character to maintain sympathy for but I did feel for her right from the start: her Dad died not too long ago but her Mum’s already moved in a step-dad; Yasmin’s being ostracised and bullied at school where her unoriginal nickname is Doner thanks to her being half-Turkish; and she’s comfort eating her overweight self in secret while her Mum, out of concern, nags her to eat more healthily and lose the excess. At this point in Things We Have In Common, her powers of observation and humour seem sharp, if dark, and her best defence mechanism. Unfortunately, perhaps partly because of her age and lack of interaction with her peers and due to her overanalysis of even minor events, Yasmin also comes across as naive. This, and her reading too much into things makes her an unreliable narrator.
Her fixation on Alice seems, at first, a schoolgirl crush, a manifestation of Yasmin’s need to belong. Yes, she’s more than slightly obsessed with her but the poor girl is clutching at straws, trying to find some glimmer of human kindness in her day. And when Yasmin notices someone else taking an interest in Alice, it’s easy to dismiss this as her fanciful imagination, or her projecting how she feels on others. That is, until Alice goes missing. At which point, the reader has to look again at what Yasmin sees and what she tells us going forward. Because this is where Things We Have In Common shifts up a gear, and I started to fear that Yasmin was putting herself at risk, or playing a dangerous game she was ill equipped for, and that no one but the reader could see this and warn her and I was powerless to get her out of there.
Tasha Kavanagh writes convincingly from Yasmin’s perspective: her voice is clear from the start of the novel, and I enjoyed her observations and dark humour, her coping mechanisms, and her logic, even if I didn’t always reach the same conclusions as she did. Things We Have In Common takes a sadly all too common situation as its starting point and quickly escalates it into one which is darkly subversive: a story in which you begin to understand how someone who was lonely, unhappy, and obsessed with a classmate crosses the line into something far more disturbing and dangerous, resulting in an increasingly uncomfortable but difficult to put down read.
Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh is published by Canongate in hardback and paperback and as an ebook and audiobook. It is available from Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop) and Waterstones. You can find out more about Tasha Kavanagh on her Author Website or on Twitter. I originally received a review copy of this book through NetGalley but bought the hardback when it came out and subsequently also bought a paperback copy for the giveaway below.
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