This review is spoiler-free!
All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.
Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora Braid for twelve years.
But she can’t resist. She parks outside Flora’s house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except…
There’s something terribly wrong.
Flora looks the same, only older – just as Beth would have expected. It’s the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all. They are no taller, no older.
Why haven’t they grown?
Why haven’t they grown? This impossible question is one that this entire novel is written around, and it certainly is intriguing. From this premise alone I truly had no idea what to expect by way of explaining Thomas and Emily’s seeming inability to grow. At first, I thought it might be some science experiment gone awfully wrong, or, even worse, perfectly right. Then I wondered if the explanation was more sinister, more evil, and indeed it is as twisted as you can imagine.
Sophie Hannah’s Haven’t They Grown (also known as Perfect Little Children) is a dark, perverse and thrilling mystery novel that will keep you on the edge of your figurative seat. After Beth sees the impossible, little Thomas and Emily Braid frozen in time, she throws herself into an intense investigation to figure out what exactly is going on with the Braid family. Beth’s investigation soon draws the attention of her family, with her husband Dom and teenage daughter Zannah getting involved in the mystery. As her concern for the children grows, Beth is forced to confront the painful reason her and Dom’s friendship with Flora and Lewis Braid fell apart over a decade ago in the first place. Beth is an amazing protaganist – she’s curious, and she’s determined, and most importantly she’s relatable. Although the centre of this book is it’s mystery, Hannah still explores Beth as a character beyond her newfound role as an investigator – first and foremost she’s a wife and a mother, and a loving one too. While she and Dom butt heads over her immense fascination with the Braid children, and just how far she’s willing to go to get to the truth, she remains steadfast in her resolve – and thankfully so.
This book is incredibly engrossing – simply because the premise is objectively impossible, which means that any conclusion drawn will be shocking, unexpected, and somewhat twisted. Hannah’s approach to writing really does make this novel a gripping read. Her writing is deeply descriptive, and her attention-to-detail is meticulous. But, while this book makes for an incredible read, the ending did feel somewhat disappointing. As twisted and unexpected as it was, the tension and suspense in the final parts lack some much-needed depth. As the novel reaches it’s long-awaited climax, there are some moments in which pieces of the puzzle fall into place a little too neatly for comfort. In this way, the ending almost feels rushed. This novel was consistently shocking and unpredictable right up until the very end, which is when the sequence of events feel a little lazy in the way they were written. Despite this, I found myself thinking about this book for days afterwards – still reeling from the shock of it all. The ending certainly leaves potential for a sequel, and I remain hopeful that Sophie Hannah will write one someday! I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and addictive thriller-mystery that you just can’t quite wrap your head around.
Sophie Hannah’s other works include The Understudy, The New Hercule Poirot Mysteries Series, and Happiness, a Mystery: And 66 Attempts to Solve It.