Jackal and an Unusual P.O.V.
I'm about to do something terrifying: write about a book I have not yet finished. I will finish it! I'm really into it! But I want to consider the questions the book is setting up and how they feel before I learn the answers.
In Jackal, by Erin E. Adams, something or someone is killing Black girls in the woods that surround a small and mostly white town in Pennsylvania. Most of the book is narrated by Liz Rocher, a Black woman who grew up in this place, moved away, and is now drawn back to it. But we also get sections about the murdered girls.
The book opens with one of these sections. The first sentence, "Tanisha Walker loved the stars," hints that we're getting a third-limited voice, aligned with Tanisha, the mother of a girl who is killed. However, this narrator later slides into the head of the girl, Alice, so I understand the voice as omniscient. This ability to be in both heads is important to the story that unfolds. It gets us close to the danger through Alice's perspective, but then shifts to Tanisha's to persist beyond Alice's death.
But then, on page 7, the voice does something curious: "Tanisha had wanted Alice to be seen so she wouldn't become a hunter's prey. She'd had that title long before she reached my eyes." It's so quick I almost miss it, but look at that "my." We have a first person narrator after all! An omniscient one, it seems, as we've already been inside other characters' heads.
It's also an intensely creepy narrator. The late emergence of this "I" creates the sensation that there's been another presence in this story all along. Someone watching, but hidden. Someone very mysterious. Additionally, the sentences imply that this voice might be the "hunter," though it's not certain. It could merely be the storyteller. Still, my guard is up–in a very good way.
Then, as quickly as it emerged, the "I" of this narrator disappears. The section ends and we move on to a different first person narrator. At least I think it's different. It's Liz Rocher, the protagonist, and she doesn't seem to know about Alice. After a bit, I start to wonder if I only imagined this other presence, the hidden narrator, watching for prey.
Page 56 brings us another account that seems to be in third-person and tells of a different girl who is killed. The narration uses the usual tricks to lull me into believing it's a standard third-limited: "Keisha was used to rich kids" followed by details of Keisha's thoughts that only she could know.
Yet two pages into the section, the "I" emerges again: "With behaviors so strong and careless, I wonder how anyone ever meets their mates." Again, we get a sense that there's been someone watching–and not only watching, but judging. The voice is still mysterious–and still omniscient. It knows everything about these girls it watches (and maybe kills?), but it tells nothing of itself.
The section ends in a trippy and terrifying passage that further illuminates the mystery of this voice, not answering my questions but making them stranger.
Fear moves in people differently.
When Liz's and Keisha's fears aligned, Keisha stepped out of her pattern. If there was room for only one Black girl, one of the wouldn't survive. Keisha wanted to live.
I watched Keisha.
She reached out for Liz's hand before she was pulled away.
Keisha taught me that a heart can change.
Hers changed me.
So we still don't know who this is. The watching is terrifying, and it comes with the implication of evil, though I suppose this could still be an observer. Also of note, the voice's naming of Liz eliminates the possibility (which I had already discarded) of the voice being Liz.
I'm also intrigued by the idea that Keisha's heart changed this voice. It seems sentimental, the cliche of a change of heart, and in a different book might indicate that this voice has a conscience or empathy or can make friends. But whatever is killing these girls, is also ripping out their hearts–literally–and so I interpret the words in a much more physical and horrifying way.
I don't yet know what is going on with this strange, emergent "I" in an omniscient POV. I only know it is watching, but hidden, perhaps biding its time. The voice is judgmental. And it knows more than it should. Maybe the book will answer my questions–I will read on to find out. But whatever the answers, I'll first enjoy the spine-tingling creepiness of not knowing.