Nine – Rachelle Dekker

Nine Rachelle Dekker
Nine by Rachelle Dekker
Also by this author: Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion, Millie Maven and the Golden Vial, Millie Maven and the White Sword, Millie Maven
Published by Revell on September 1, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense, Thriller
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four-stars

Zoe Johnson spent most of her life living in the shadows, never drawing attention to herself, never investing in people or places. But when a wide-eyed, bedraggled teenager with no memory walks into the diner where Zoe works, everything changes. Now, against her better judgment, Zoe, who has been trying to outrun her own painful memories of the past, finds herself attempting to help a girl who doesn't seem to have any past at all. The girl knows only one thing: she must reach a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas, hundreds of miles away, before the government agents who are searching for her catch up to them.
Award-winning author Rachelle Dekker throws you into the middle of the action and keeps the pressure on in this page-turning story that, asks Are we who the world says we are--or can we change our story and be something more?

Rachelle Dekker’s writing journey has bounced through literary genres. Most authors find a genre and stick to it. Some may play around the edges, but most find that readers want to know what they’re getting into just by reading the author’s name. Dekker hasn’t exactly stuck to that, and yet, when I pick up a Rachelle Dekker novel—at least, to date—I’m pretty sure I’m going to find the story of a character searching for identity and purpose.

Her debut series fit squarely in the realm of YA dystopian fiction. It’s about a young woman name Carrington who must figure out her life after she is not Chosen. Her follow up novel was an intensely personal psychological thriller that deals with Alicen dealing with issues of family and identity. The one after that was an inevitable father-daughter team-up that recalled some of Ted’s older speculative fiction and is tinged with the same themes. Rather than being genre-focused, Dekker has positioned herself as issues-focused. Namely: Who are we? Where do we come from? Who controls us? Who or what determines who we become? This exploration of identity and purpose continues in thrilling fashion with Nine.

We begin with Lucy. She’s on the run, isn’t entirely sure why, and is way too trusting. The only thing she knows is that Olivia wiped her memories and she has to get to Summer in Corpus Christi. Against her better judgment, a waitress named Zoe commits to helping Lucy find her friend. If I had to explain it in terms of other media, think of Nine as Jason Bourne meets El from Stranger Things.

Meanwhile, Tom Seeley has been given orders to track down Lucy. Number nine. Part of the Grantham Project. Seeley had volunteered for the project because of its covert nature. Now they had him tracking down their human experiments. All he knew was that her mind had been wiped except for damaging information that would expose what was really going on at Grantham—information that would destroy some very powerful men.

Throughout the book, Lucy struggles with her true identity. Is she the product of her environment? Is she the product of her training? Is she the product of memory manipulation? Can she be her own person? These questions are mirrored in both Zoe and Seeley and we see how they also grapple with these questions as they alternately help and hunt Lucy.

Nine is a fast-paced thriller that never lets up, providing abundant opportunity for thrills but never really resting to fully consider the philosophical setup around which Dekker constructs the novel. We get snippets here and flashes there, none of them long enough to really get us to know the characters. And that may be part of the problem. It’s hard to be emotionally invested in characters you don’t know. And it’s hard to know the characters when they don’t really know themselves.

What I really wanted was more time. I would have read another hundred pages if it meant having time to really develop the characters. The plotting was strong. The story exhilarating. A page-turner that forced me to read it in one sitting. But I wanted more to the characters. In a story about identity, I think you have to. And if the only criticism is “I wanted more…” well…hopefully that’s a reasonable thing to want.

four-stars