ARC Review: For Your Own Good // a decent and twisty thriller

Hello, friends. Welcome back to the blog! Today, I’m going to be reviewing For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing.

I was lucky to get an ARC copy of this book and I was really excited to see how Downing’s latest book would turn out. I read her first book, My Lovely Wife and enjoyed it, so I had some hopes for this one. And Downing definitely did not disappoint.

Just for some disclaimers: All spoilers will be in dropdowns, so you may skip them if you like. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review, however all opinions and thoughts are my own.

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Cover and synopsis are from Goodreads.

Adult, Mystery/Thriller, ARC Review

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing Cover

For Your Own Good
by Samantha Downing

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

trigger warnings: murder, death, violence, poisoning

Out of all the characters, I really only liked Zach. He’s literally the only likeable character, and even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m in the minority with liking him.

Why did I like him? He’s one of two people (the other being Courtney) who weren’t entirely messed up and he was kind of relate-able in a sense. Sure, Zach was kind of looking for trouble when he was trying to gather dirt on Teddy, and he did do wrong by bribing a guard, but it was so much easier to still like him and root for him because his intentions weren’t evil. He was just a kid who messed up but learned from the entire situation.

That’s what really made me like him. By the end of the book, I felt like he’d stepped out of his privileged perfect shell and kind of become a better person as a result of everything that happened.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

Though the ending where Zach is like he’ll return to Belmont because someone has to help the kids gave me too many creepy Teddy vibes for comfort, so I really hope that wasn’t supposed to be some kind of foreshadowing that he might end up becoming as obsessed as Teddy. I really hope that wasn’t what it meant; he’s a nice kid.

I also sympathized with Courtney even if I didn’t really come to like her since she wasn’t actively there for a good portion of the story. As messed up as this sounds, I was actually kind of glad that Teddy was working to get her out of the pickle she was in.

This is what this book did to me. It made me actually glad that one person was saved at the expense of another. My morality is at stake y’all.

Since we’re already on the subject, let’s talk about Teddy and his morality.

One thing that’s been a constant between Downing’s first novel and this one, is the fact that the story is told primarily from the bad guy’s point of view. That makes you see them in a different kind of light. With Teddy, I didn’t 100% hate him, because I could see where he was coming from, no matter how messed up his thinking was. It made him more human in a sense.

Like, it’s easy to condemn a serial killer in a novel, when you’re reading it from the victim’s or the detective’s point of view. They’re just the bad evil person who’s going around and killing people for some twisted reason. And that makes it so easy to hate them and want them to be caught and punished for it.

But Downing flips that narrative around and we get to see the story from his point of view, which changes the perspective that you get.

Teddy was one hundred percent in the wrong. There is no doubt about that. What he did was horrible and terrible, no matter how much he tried to justify it. But the fact that I saw how it all unfolded from his point of view made it no longer so black and white.

This is not to say that I didn’t hate him or that I hoped he got away with it. On the contrary, I wanted justice to be properly served and it would have been so satisfying to have his righteous holier-than-everyone attitude smashed to dust. I’m just saying that Downing made his character more complex than villains in mysteries usually are.

I feel like anyone who reads this is going to be extremely concerned for me, lol, but I don’t know how else to explain this in a way that doesn’t make me sound morally insane.

The only other notable characters were Frank and Fallon. Frank was okay, he was very suspicious at the start of the book and it was interesting to see what happened with him. Though his role in the ending was not my favorite, but I’ll talk about that more in depth later.

Fallon on the other hand was a very interesting complication. I didn’t like her exactly, but she helped reveal and explain a lot of things, so that was helpful. I can’t really say much else without spoiling stuff.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

Even though I didn’t like her, I was a little sad that she died. It was such a pointless death, and I wish she could have tried to move on with her life instead of being stuck on Teddy. Especially when she did do something terrible (blackmailing the previous headmaster, though he was in the wrong too for gambling illegally seriously, there’s like no one that wasn’t guilty of something) and kind of deserved that recommendation letter. She was definitely not innocent, but still, I was disappointed that she died.

Also, Zach has a death wish, I wanted to smack him so hard when he decided to confront Teddy at Fallon’s funeral. Like dude, you think he’s a serial killer, yet you also think it’s a great idea to tell him that you’re on to him? Do you not want to live?? He should have just gone to the FBI and hoped to evade Teddy’s radar until he was arrested. Ugh, he gave me a fright, I was so sure Teddy would kill him before everything was resolved.

In general, I just wanted to add that the rest of the characters weren’t so engaging. Besides Zach, Fallon, and Teddy, everyone else was like really bland and annoying and super unlikable, so I couldn’t even feel sorry for any of them. They were kind of there just to fulfill a role in the story. It didn’t make me dislike the book though because the plot made up for it, but it did bother me and I would have liked it better if the rest of the characters weren’t so flat.

This was phenomenal plot-wise. I loved the twists and turns, and how messed up the whole thing was. You already know who’s behind everything but Downing still managed to pack in a bunch of unexpected twists that made this a lot less straightforward than I thought it would be.

There were also a couple of questions that added another layer of mystery, such as what happened to Teddy’s wife, that also helped to influence the plot. It makes you wonder if there is a more sinister force at play and whether everything is truly as it seems. And being the seasoned thriller/mystery reader that I am, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how exactly all those unanswered questions could potentially throw a wrench into Teddy’s plans or surprisingly change the end of the story.

However, while the plot and twists were great, the ending felt a little bit disappointing. I explain more about that below, but in general, I just wish that justice had been served in a different manner.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers about the ending

I really really wish that Frank hadn’t intervened and killed Teddy. It would have been so much more satisfying if Teddy had been arrested, because I think that would make him feel more miserable than the relatively quick death he had.

Which is kind of an…evil wish? I’m sorry, but him just dying made it too easy and simple. If he’d gone to jail, he’d have years upon years to think about his “failure”. Unless it’s a state with a death penalty I guess; I don’t remember which state it took place in (if it was mentioned). But even then, the public trial and media circus would have still made him suffer more than his death did.

SPOILERS for MY LOVELY WIFE BELOW. Skip to white portion of the page or close this dropdown if you don’t want to read them.

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A similar ending happened in Downing’s other novel, My Lovely Wife, so I guess it’s possibly her style? And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a much better ending than him getting away with it completely, but it didn’t work for me in My Lovely Wife, and it sadly didn’t work for me here either.

This was a fun thriller with lots of twists that kept me in suspense for a good majority of the book. Not all the characters were the most interesting, but I did like the ones that stood out, and I love that Downing told the story from the killer’s perspective, rather than from the detective/private investigator’s perspective. It made the story a lot more interesting.

I think Downing is going to become one of my auto-read authors when it comes to thrillers because I’ve liked two of her books so far, and I’m really excited to try any others that she writes.

I’d highly recommend that you give her books a try, especially this one, if you want a suspenseful thriller from the killer’s point of view.

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite thriller? Have you read any of Downing’s books before?
  • Do you think I’m morally questionable for understanding Teddy’s motivations?
  • Do you prefer thrillers from the detective or the killer’s point of view?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “ARC Review: For Your Own Good // a decent and twisty thriller

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