Author: Jessica Huntley
Publication Date: 1 July 2021
Available As: Paperback and e-book
Josslyn is a normal 28 year old woman, but she holds a dark secret. She has a voice in her head who she calls Alicia … who just happens to be a psychopath. Josslyn must uncover the truth about who Alicia really is and deal with the deadly consequences of her own actions.
My Dark Self is the second novel of a good friend of mine, Jessica Huntley, and the first in a planned trilogy of books she calls the “My…Self” series. Unlike her last book, The Darkness Within Ourselves (ibid), My Dark Self is written entirely from the perspective of its main character, Josslyn, who struggles with an increasingly violent and unstable voice in her head, Alicia. I say “voice” but Alicia is, in actuality, an entire persona and character in her won right; not only does she talk directly to Josslyn through an internal monologue but she also thinks and acts for herself, is able to manipulate or out-right control Josslyn at times, and even has a few chapters dedicated to detailing things from her twisted perspective.
Right off the bat I have to hold my hands up and say that I often struggle a bit with first-person narratives; they kind of require a different mindset from the reader, one that asks the audience to “become” the character they’re reading (which is actually quite fitting considering Josslyn’s fractured mental state) but Huntley approaches this narrative style in a slightly different way. Instead of truly experiencing the events of the book through Josslyn’s eyes, it’s as though the character (and her psychopathic imaginary friend) are addressing the reader directly throughout. Huntley further expands upon this by having Josslyn go off on tangents and tell smaller snippets of her life to further flesh out her character and backstory and to keep the reader engaged.
For the most part, Josslyn is a pretty relatable young woman; she’s up to her eyeballs in debt, isn’t the most self- or body-confident, and has made her fair share of mistakes in life. Something of a reclusive and introvert, she doesn’t have much in the way of a social life, has basically lived in or around the same town for her entire life, and prefers to company of herself (and her darker half) after being raised by a doting, if clingy, mother and home school during her childhood. All of this makes for a character who is much more comfortable in her own company and retreating to her inner monologue, which is good because the majority of the story is framed in this way and places further emphasis on her strange relationship with Alicia.
Alicia, who encourages Josslyn almost as often as she berates her, has a tendency to violently lash out at others to protect her/them and is cold, blunt, and logical where Josslyn can be emotional and fragile. A startling discovery leads Josslyn to question her very identity and background, which only places further strain on her relationship with Alicia, and leads her to uncovering some shocking secrets about her past and their true nature.
This is where the book really shined, for me at least. While The Darkness Within Ourselves was quite a cerebral piece (and My Dark Self is still very cerebral for the most part), this story takes a twisted turn into the macabre and gruesome as the true extent of Alicia’s violent tendencies are described in horrific detail. Her promiscuity and rage are potent, leading to some of the more grisly (and thus, for me, entertaining) visuals of the novel. Huntley also has a decent knack for capturing the everyday, mundane nature of most conversations while still infusing characters with personality so that they “sound” believable. While this does venture into some more long-winded moments of exposition and repetition, it’s interesting seeing the dynamic between Josslyn and Alicia (who both think, act, and even speak very differently) and the way they view the world and characters around them.
At its core, My Dark Self certainly places a lot of its focus on the mystery of the true nature of its main characters and examines some interesting, if unexpected, aspects to what it means to be a psychopath. Some well-executed twists help keep the story rolling along and interesting, as does the more morbid imagery, and I was able to put aside my bias against first-person stories to try to piece together and theorise alongside Josslyn. Another brisk tale, My Dark Self again clearly showcases a degree of knowledge on the author’s part regarding such mental conditions and the tumultuous duality that comes from sisterhood; questions regarding identity and our true nature are raised and explored in interesting ways and I’m intrigued to see where Huntley takes the story going forward.
If you’re interested in checking out My Dark Self and learning more about Jessica Huntley and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.