⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Pros: short read, lots of character development in such a short time, unsettling and gross
Cons: really gross
TRIGGER WARNINGS: FOOD STUFF, BODY HORROR, MANIPULATION, MENTAL HEALTH
Well, hello Eric LaRocca, it's so nice to meet you. This book was one of the first books that I saw A LOT OF on my FYP when I first joined booktok back in early February. Along with the visual (what a great cover) I was hearing things like "grotesque" and "super gorey" and "you won't even know what you just read" kinda stuff so like... I had to read it, right? I had never read Eric LaRocca's stuff before, I didn't know what to expect other than the brief descriptors from booktok. I wasn't ready. Even if I had been briefed more thoroughly, I still don't think I would've been ready. I don't really like body horror but I still read it. It's my attempt to prove something to myself? I have no idea why I am like this.
Y'all know by now, shorter books I do not go in depth on them out of fear of giving too much away, however, this book has a lot to unpack AND I feel like a good outline of what to expect may help someone, somewhere, decide whether or not this book is for them. Let's dig into the disgusting, brutal story Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke.
The story starts out with our main character Agnes trying to find someone in a chatroom to buy her antique apple peeler. Another woman, Zoe, shows interest, they strike up a conversation. During the conversation, Agnes reveals more about herself, her relationship with her family and Zoe shows compassion and support. A relationship is born. I will admit, during this entire exchange, I was very confused. Like... what am I reading? What is this shit about an apple peeler? I had no idea what I was in for.
As the two women grow closer, things begin to turn dark fairly quickly. Their entire exchange is online, they never meet or connect in person, though Zoe begins getting Agnes to do things IRL for her, sick things. Zoe tells Agnes that she wants to control her every move, thought, action. Sadomasicism at its finest, the entire time, I was screaming "ASK FOR CLARIFICATION, AGNES, DON'T JUST SAY YES." She clearly didn't hear me though and we were off to the races.
Here is a rapid fire list of the things that happen next. These are the real spoilers so if you want to skip them, CLICK HERE TO DO THAT
Zoe requests Agnes get a salamander from the park and keep it in her pocket with her all day. At the end of the day, Zoe tells Agnes to kill it. She complies and smashes it with a rock. I beg your pardon.
Agnes, rightfully traumatized by the whole ordeal, breaks up with Zoe.
They don't speak for a while.
Agnes reaches out to Zoe, apologies, begs to get back together and have another chance. Zoe agrees. I am on edge.
Agnes, clearly on a slow and steady track to a mental breakdown, starts talking about wanting a baby with Zoe. ::breathing heavy::
Zoe wants a baby too but tells Agnes that she can't give her that, but that Agnes can have life inside her ::gulp:: if she goes to a butcher shop (stay with me, we're almost out!) and buys a steak, leave it in the sun for days so it can mold, fester and then Agnes has to eat it, resulting in a tapeworm. I am not hungry, thank you.
Agnes does everything like she's told, and very excitedly at that. She is BEAMING with pride over their little tapeworm baby and it's at this point I realize just how sick Agnes is.
Zoe must have realized it around the same time I did because she dips. She tells Agnes that she is sick and needs to seek help and to not contact her anymore.
Agnes does NOT oblige this request, she continues to message and email Zoe, gushing over their "baby" ::eye shift uncomfortably::
GET READY BECAUSE THIS IS GOING TO GO FAST AND IT IS AWFUL AND JUST BREATHE THROUGH YOUR NOSE
Agnes has "given birth" ::sigh:: and writes to Zoe for the last time. As the letter trails off, you are left in a gray area of "what the fuck?" I read the ending as Agnes cut out her own eyes with the apple peeler, killing herself.
WOO WHAT A RIDE, THE END, THANK THE LORD
OK YOU'VE REACHED THE SAFE ZONE.
Overall, this book had me hollering in my bedroom. I listened to it on audiobook so that means, my husband also listened to it on audiobook. :) His only issue was that the ending felt very abrupt after such a great build up the entire time. I agree with that but I can't lie, I gasped and rewound the book to listen again to make sure I'd heard right. Overall, an incredible, albeit disgusting and unsettling, reading experience. Bravo, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I just received a copy of LaRocca's latest book in the mail (thank you Kaitlyn) I clearly have issues because I can't wait to read it.
Also, please enjoy my GoodReads review and follow me there if you'd like! This review is a great summary of all the things I plan to discuss at length below.