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The Apartment: K.L. Slater, A Review

With a stunning cover and interesting blurb, I was excited to receive an eARC of The Apartment. After her estranged husband dies, Freya is on the verge of losing everything. Struggling with the severity of the decisions she must make in order to take care of her five year old daughter, Skye, a chance encounter at a cafe puts her directly in line for an opportunity that seems too good to be true. Dr. Marsden offers her a beautiful apartment in a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhod--well out of range of what she's able to afford--with the ability to move in less than a week. Strapped and stressed, she agrees, and things get weird.

As a literary subject, I'm a big fan of behavioral experiments as plot devices. Done well, they'll stick with you for years. And while Slater's writing was engaging and effortless, I had a difficult time buying into the narrative frame. The premise of the story relies entirely on her accepting this room, and I still can't see why anyone in her position would ever choose to do so. She doesn't vet Dr. Marsden or the house. She doesn't ask questions. She doesn't consider why someone would strike up a conversation with her and offer a too-good-to-be-true housing situation. She has at least six months' financial ability to find a decent place in the same district before she'd need to consider finding a job, and still she accepts this strange offer without a day to contemplate the irrationality of it. I never got the sense that the stakes were as dire as we were supposed to believe. It's a plot point I just could not get past. None of the characters were particularly likeable, not something I need in order to enjoy a text, but the responses rubbed me the wrong way. For example, the mother of Skye's best friend completely rips her a new one for not informing her of their plans--in spite the common knowledge of her husband's death and the need to move, this is a HUGE surprise--and refuses to let the daughters associate any longer. I just...what? I'm living in the kindergarten world right now, and while mom circles are tricky to navigate, I cannot even fathom this level of pettiness. *spoilers* I also had a difficult time with Freya's decisions and lack of common sense to push the plot forward. She acts completely oblivious about the identity of the sender of the mysterious, expensive presents, when pages before--and after--she reflects on the expensive and strange gifts from the Marsdens. For the purpose of introducing doubt alone, she neglects the Very Obvious Thing in front of her in favor of an outlandish connection we had no investment in or any interest in pursuing. This was a misstep for me, because the subplot felt underdeveloped and unnecessary. Additionally, she ignores her gut when several events in the apartment and house warrant suspicion. The one trustworthy voice in the entire plot is an underdeveloped side character who feels more like a device to get to a happy ending. I didn't give up on the story, though. I was still intrigued by the idea of what the experiment was. *semi spoilers* Revealed in a series of old journal entries and a strangely-flat culminating confrontation, the experiment is a focus on fear stimuli, stemming from Pavlov's bell. I could be off-base here, but this seemed more common sense to me: that if you introduce something that terrifies a subject, repeatedly and consistently, that subject will undoubtedly develop a Pavolovian response to said stimulus. From countless stories of abuse and PTSD, this didn't at all seem as outrageous as I think we as the audience were supposed to find it, and because of that, I was not left with the "OMG" shock I expected at the beginning. Overall, this was a quick read with enjoyable writing, but relatively flat characters and conclusion. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a simple thriller with accessible conflict, but I'm not sure I would re-read this again myself. Thank you to Amazon UK and NetGalley for providing me an arc in exchange for review consideration.