Review: The Collective by Alison Gaylin


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Just how far will a grieving mother go to right a tragic wrong?

Camille Gardner is a grieving—and angry—mother who, five years after her daughter’s death, is still obsessed with the privileged young man she believes to be responsible.

When her rash actions attract the attention of a secret group of women—the collective— Camille is drawn into a dark web where these mothers share their wildly different stories of loss as well as their desire for justice in a world where privilege denies accountability and perpetrators emerge unscathed. Fueled by mutual rage, these women orchestrate their own brand of justice through precise, anonymous, complexly plotted and perfectly executed revenge killings, with individual members completing a specific and integral task in each plan.

As Camille struggles to comprehend whether this is a role-playing exercise or terrifying reality, she must decide if these women are truly avenging angels or monsters. Becoming more deeply enmeshed in the group, Camille learns truths about the collective—and about herself—that she may not be able to survive.


Social media has changed many things in the world, including the way that we communicate with others and the way that we express our lives. I know that there are those who need to share every single thing about their day (if it’s not a post, it didn’t happen), and there are those who shy away from everything about sharing anything personal. One of the things that has really starting to trend in last few years is that people are starting to want their privacy back, even if they are posting almost every day. This newer sense of anonymity might have something to do with the ads changing based on conversations that you are having and algorithms that are sometimes pretty spot on but sometimes just out of control. There has also been a rise in the internet investigator, the internet snoop who listens to true crime podcasts and watch crime documentaries, and think that with a little bit of internet sleuthing, she can solve the case. Those people can gather in forums and secret pages and sometimes gather more evidence than the police. 

The Collective is about one of those forums, one that is made up of grieving mothers who do not think the person that is responsible for their child’s death has received the proper penalty for their crime. Camille Gardner becomes part of this group because her daughter was raped and died in the woods behind a fraternity house one winter evening. The boy who did this was found innocent, and he is living his best life while her child is dead. This does not sit well with Camille and her grief, and so she turns to an online forum. This forum turns into a group, the collective, who has their own ways of punishing the guilty. 

The Collective is definitely a social media age book, filled with websites, posts, burner phones, texting, and seemingly random events that actually are just pieces of the same puzzle. There are many times when the things Camille is asked to do does not mean much as an individual act but they are important to the bigger picture. There are some times when some of the randomness is really impressive, as if the story is so meticulously plotted that no move is wasted. The pace is fast and the story moves at a breakneck speed, and in the end, we know that Camille is in way over her head much earlier than she does. 

I enjoyed reading The Collective, and even though I am not terribly excited about the ending, it is the only ending that makes any sense. As a whole this was a thrilling story, and I enjoyed the many parts that ended up becoming an entire picture.

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