Baby by Annaleese Jochems Preview Reviews

Baby by Annaleese Jochems Preview Reviews

Our latest Preview title is Baby, by Annaleese Jochems – a sunburnt psychological thriller of obsession and escape by one of the most exciting new voices in New Zealand fiction. Take a look at what our Preview reviewers thought about the book:

‘For a debut book this is really well written. This psychological thriller will get readers thinking. Cynthia and Anahera are a couple, or maybe couple, trying to escape from their own reality. Readers might find this book a tad disturbing and uncomfortable; I personally think this was the intention of the author.’ – Deborah, NSW

‘Baby is a psychological lesbian twisted story in the same kind of realm as Genuine Fraud and Social Creature. When their lives fall apart Cynthia and Anahera escape on a depilated old boat. They both pursue selfish goals, indifferent to the consequences.’ – Amy, NSW

‘The title, Baby, suggests a sweet story. But what you actually get is a dark, sinister, and what I found to be disturbing, story of obsession. Cynthia, as we learn from the beginning, is quite taken with her fitness instructor, Anahera. Perhaps a little crush. As the story progresses, we learn that these feelings of a romantic and sexual nature are much more. We eventually learn that Cynthia’s obsession is one of jealousy and possession and knows no bounds. There were parts of the story that left me shocked and saddened. Especially when Cynthia gave up something she truly loved, all to feed her unhealthy obsession. The ending actually left me wanting to know more as I have many unanswered questions. This is actually my favourite part of the book as I can imagine my own ending. But if you like stories nicely resolved, this book isn’t for you. I really liked that this story challenges stereotypes, and is especially surprising at the end with the revelation of who the stronger character is.’ – Alice, NSW

‘I can’t say I loved this book but it certainly was a compelling reading. It’s not a book to be loved; it’s a dark story of obsession, both possessive and self. It’s written over a relatively short period of time. There is very little before in the telling. Cynthia is a young woman of 21 but she looks and acts much younger. She runs away with Anahera, her fitness instructor. Cynthia’s mind is chaotic, she flits from highs to lows and as the story is from her POV it makes the story also quite chaotic. She is constantly internally obsessing over Anahera’s love for her. I wasn’t sure where the story was heading until a third character was introduced that completely changed the dynamic of the plot. The characters have no past and what little we do learn is unreliable as to its truth. This is a strangely compelling read and I was intrigued to find out what would happen next. Cynthia has no conscience; her only thoughts are what Cynthia needs and what Cynthia wants. She was a complex character easily obsessed and just as easily bored. Baby is a tautly written dark satire on the age of entitlement and self obsession.’ – Veronica, NSW

‘Two women, a dog called Snot-head and a little boat called Baby moored in the Bay of Islands: almost sounds like a sitcom plot. Cynthia is a reality TV fan, Anahera is her gym instructor and the boat was bought with stolen money. Cynthia imagines a loved-up idyllic existence but the reality proves otherwise. Nobody here is really likeable, except maybe the dog. But their behaviour made them interesting enough for me to want to know just what they were going to do and say next. Some of that was a bit ew (and I’m not talking the sex), some of it was boring, and some of it was just jaw-dropping. With hints of Lord of the Flies and Thelma and Louise, it’s a fascinating, surreal ride (like witnessing a train wreck), watching almost-normal unravel into bizarre, and bizarre morph into chilling. A compelling debut novel that is likely to polarise readers.’ – Marianne, NSW

‘Lovers of the Australian bush-noir genre should look across the ditch to Annaleese Jochem’s Baby. This tautly written satire is a fantastic effort and keeps the reader gripped to the very end. This is no mean feat given none of the characters are particularly likeable! The exploration of Cynthia and Anahera’s relationship in the cramped confines of Baby leaves the reader with such a rolling feeling of unease, it’s as if Annaleese has perfectly mimicked seasickness for the reader. Looking forward to seeing her grow as an author.’ – Kirsten, WA

‘Reality TV loving Cynthia, her dog Snot-head, and her fitness instructor Anahera (whom she has a crush on) steal money from her father to buy a boat named Baby, and live moored in the Bay of Islands, on the North Island of New Zealand. Here Cynthia hopes they will live in bliss but with a seasick dog, a lack of money, an incident on a nearby island and the coincidental arrival of a German backpacker by the name of Gordon, her hopes of love seem shot to bits. Cynthia’s jealousy grows as Gordon becomes closer to Anahera. Baby is a story of jealousy and obsession told in an atmosphere of damp, oppressive closeness. Baby seems ever smaller as the three of them navigate each other and the space remaining. I may not approve of self-centred Cynthia but was drawn into her obsessive world, whether I liked it or not.’ – Daniella, QLD

‘I am sorry to write this, but Baby was a “did not finish” for me – the third book I have never finished. I couldn’t like the characters and didn’t find the story interesting or appealing enough to want to continue reading. I have many books waiting to be read and this list keeps growing each time I see Better Reading promoting a new and exciting book. Each time I picked up “Baby” I kept looking at my pile of books with their appealing covers and storylines and I decided I was going to follow through on my “2019 – Life is Too Short for Books I Don’t Enjoy” motto. Gillian Flynn writes about horrible people doing horrible things, but her storylines and plot twists keep me reading. Unfortunately, I was not interested in this story and could not see it going anywhere fast any time soon. So without a story to keep me going, I found myself really struggling and did not want to pick up my book and read. I love reading and I need to read for my mental well- being, so I had to close this book and move on to one I really want to read.’ – Jodi, NSW

‘Baby by Annaleese Jochems promises a psychological thriller. What it delivers is an easy, mindless read; the epitome of what a thriller should not be. While this is not the type of novel I would typically read, I gave it many chances and continued to be left disappointed. I found the writing style simplistic and juvenile, and the book overall presents as a high school student’s writing project rather than a breakthrough novel of an up and coming author. The reader finds themselves more than halfway through the book before the complication is reached, at which point I expected the inevitable plot twist – but there wasn’t one. Instead, the characters continue with their mundane daily life interspersed with nonsensical outbursts of violence and childish behaviour. No resolution is reached; the characters are left much as we found them. There is no opportunity for the reader to develop an affinity for any character, with the possible exception of Cynthia’s abandoned dog, Snot-Head. The characters are neither likeable, nor do they capture the reader enough to incite a dislike. Overall, I found Baby to be very disappointing. I tried very hard to like it, but it was an altogether forgettable book.’ – Ashleigh, ACT

‘This short novel is a “black” thriller telling the story of two girls who run away and purchase a boat, “Baby” paid for by money stolen from one of the girl’s father’s bank account. It examines their feelings for each other and other characters. Other readers who enjoy this genre may get more out of it than I. It was not difficult to read but the storyline was troubling and not enjoyable. If I hadn’t set myself the task to write a review I would not have continued to the finish. A disturbing read for me.’ – Sue, WA

‘”Baby” is labelled as a psychological thriller but I found it to be slow and predictable. On the occasions that it wasn’t, it was either unbelievable or irrelevant. The two main characters, Claudia and Anahera, aren’t very likeable. Claudia is immature and erratic and Anahera is a manipulative tease without substance. Toby, who is later introduced, is likeable but how he came to be with Claudia and Anahera is unrealistic. The other significant character is Gordon, who is interesting, but it was never explained how he actually came to be there, which would have added depth to his role. The conversations between characters would just randomly change, highlighting Claudia’s immaturity and her strange and strained relationship with Anahera, but it made the writing clunky and was hard to get into the flow of reading. The biggest disappointment was the ending, which was more of an unsatisfying non-ending. I was hoping there would be a shock moment between Claudia and Anahera, which it felt like the book was leading up to but it just stopped short of it.’ – Stevie, NSW

‘Baby is a debut novel by Annaleese Jochems. I received this book for review prior to its Australian release in early March 2019. I love a good thriller, so I was excited to start this novel, however it soon became apparent that this novel felt like a first draft at best. The novel is about a self-obsessed 21-year-old called Cynthia, who develops affection for her attractive fitness instructor, Anahera. What follows is a random series of events with little reasoning behind them, weird dialogue and storylines that just end with no resolve. The writing was so bad in this novel that I question whether perhaps this is meant to be a ‘new style’ of modern writing, like the way that language has changed through social media. However I found it difficult to get past the incoherent sentences, jilted dialogue and poor grammar. Comma positioning made for a clunky read and the author’s attempts at ‘literary writing’ just came across as gibberish. Perfect examples ‘She coughs like a dog coughing up a dog’ pg. 193 and ‘She’s only moving, like food in bowels pg. 202’. Unfortunately I am unable to recommend this novel and give it only 1 star.’ – Lisa, VIC

‘It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of this book. At first I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not, but as I read further I found the story quite enthralling. The story is told from the entitled and self-centered perspective of 21 year old Cynthia who runs away with her fitness instructor Anahera and buys a boat called Baby. Once upon Baby, the story is propelled forward by the introduction of a male character that changes the dynamics of the storyline. While it did take a bit to be drawn in by the story, by the last page I was a very satisfied reader.’ – Jessie, VIC

‘Baby is a dark and unnerving tale of Cynthia’s unhealthy obsession with her gym instructor Anahera and the claustrophobic life they lead on a boat, named ‘Baby’, after running away together when Anahera’s marriage breaks down. Both women are unlikeable and manipulative with the main protagonist Cynthia quite self-absorbed and with a penchant for reality TV which, together with her inner dialogue, demonstrates her limited grasp of her actual reality. This was a difficult review for me to write as I didn’t finish the book though I appreciated Jochems writing talent and for that reason rated it 2.5 stars. Even in the telling of the seemingly mundane existence that Cynthia and Anahera lead, Jochems weaves a vivid narrative that kept you just fascinated enough to turn that page to find out where this increasingly bizarre tale will lead to, especially as you feel the atmosphere progress from the strange to bizarre to chilling. The slow pacing of the book worked well to keep the reader unsettled as you are privy to Cynthia’s inner dialogue and the toxic nature of Cynthia and Anahera’s relationship and how this unravels with the addition of new characters. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t continue to plod along with the story, I didn’t know enough of the characters back story to remain invested in such unlikable characters and even with the addition of the new characters the pacing didn’t pick up significantly to maintain my interest, and it all just became more of the same to me and I had had enough.’ Maridel, NSW

‘Baby is not the type of book I would normally pick up, however I found it both thought provoking and confronting. The imagery is jarring and uncomfortable, and creates an edgy suspense made all the more startling by descriptions of the mundane. Would recommend this book for fans of psychological suspense.’ Alanna, QLD

‘Thanks to Better Reading, I was lucky to preview and review Annaleese Jochems debut novel, “Baby”. A story of 21 year old Cynthia and her gym loving instructor Anahera. When Anahera leaves her husband, her and Cynthia decide to take all the money they have got, pack up what they have and take Cynthia’s dog named “Snot-head”, leave everything behind and go and buy a boat to live on called “Baby”. I have to admit I struggled with this book a lot and was not able to get into it. I found I could not relate to the any of the characters and found some of the storylines very unrealistic.’ – Kristy, VIC

‘Annaleese Jochems’ novel Baby is a truly compelling read in the most unconventional way. The story is narrated through Cynthia, the main protagonist. Cynthia is an entitled millennial, focused only on herself and her superficial needs. As a result of seeing events play out through her eyes, there often feels like there is a strong disparity between her perception of events and what is actually occurring. Her immaturity and naivety is especially highlighted through her encounters with others, particularly her strong jealousy towards anyone who gets close to her friend, Anahera. The story itself is fairly simplistic, with minimal characters and settings, yet the complexities of the questionable characters make for fascinating reading. It was strange at times to be so engrossed in a book in which you are not particularly rooting for any of the characters, which clearly reflect Jochems’ writing talents. This book provides a platform to question one’s own behaviours and relays a strong message about the follies of selfishness. It serves as a strong warning for all shallow, superficial people to focus on how their behaviours affect themselves and others.’ – Sarah, VIC

‘Despite being a tale of escaping the responsibilities of the suburban grind, Baby casts an awkward and somewhat claustrophobic tension. Baby is a quirky narrative about a seemingly innocent, yet slightly unhinged Cynthia and her vision of an idyllic existence that looms larger than her conscience. Her beguiled attempts at creating a love bubble on the deck of her boat “Baby” for herself and Anotera, the subject of her affection, makes for a sometimes dark and peculiar read. Morbid curiosity keeps the pages turning.’ – Alana, VIC

‘Baby reminded me why I love thrilling books and made me wonder why I don’t read them more often! As I began reading I had no idea where this story was headed, but I really enjoyed the introduction to the characters, especially Anahera, I wanted to know more about her, who she was and where she came from. The boat in the story ‘Baby’ gave me fond memories of my younger years on the sea and left me longing for my own escape to the ocean. Cynthia reminded me of a younger version of myself, dependant, thoughtful, caring and eager to please and I anticipated every interaction between the main characters. Overall I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t your usual love story which usually is all I read.’ – Tamara, QLD

Related Articles

Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee: Your Preview Verdict

Kids & Ya

24 October 2018

Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee: Your Preview Verdict


‘Sultry, sinister, hilarious and demented, Baby blazes with intelligence and murderous black humour. Heavenly Creatures for a new generation.’ - ELEANOR CATTON, AUTHOR OF MAN BOOKER PRIZE-WINNING THE LUMINARIES.

‘Cynthia can understand how Anahera feels just by looking at her body.’Cynthia is twenty-one, bored, and desperately waiting for something big to happen. Her striking fitness instructor, Anahera, is ready to throw in the towel on her job and marriage. With stolen money and a dog in tow they run away and buy ‘Baby’, an old boat docked in a beautiful bay, where Cynthia dreams they will live in a state of love. But strange events on an empty island turn their life together in a different direction.Baby is a sunburnt psychological thriller of obsession and escape by one of the most exciting new voices in New Zealand fiction.
Annaleese Jochems
About the author

Annaleese Jochems

Annaleese Jochems was born in 1994 and grew up in Northland. She won the 2016 Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters and the 2018 Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction for Baby, which is her first book.

Books by Annaleese Jochems


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *