Review of ‘We Were Restless Things’

We Were Restless Things
We Were Restless Things
by Cole Nagamatsu
Image Credit: Edelweiss

We Were Restless Things is one of those novels that linger in the balance of love or hate. It has an interesting premise, following a summer where a boy drowned on dry land. Link’s death is due to a lake in the forest that moves, a lake that is very much alive and interested in Noemi Amato. For Noemi, her once magical refuge has turned into something dangerous. She knows the lake murdered her friend because Link is texting her from beyond the grave. Elements such as that hook the reader in, but the characterization within the story lacks personality, leaving room for more development.

The magical realism that comes alive in the forest takes center stage in the story. Nagamatsu gives the forest a voice of its own, and that voice verges on terrifying. There are times where the reader is pulled in by the fantasy and magic of the forest, but Nagamatsu is fantastic at ensuring that something is unsettling about it. It is a great way to build this sinister atmosphere while creating tension throughout the story.

Lacks Personality

As the central character, Noemi lacks personality. This is a shame because she is described as a character with such vibrancy, but her artwork, the way she dresses, they don’t give her life. Quite simply, her voice falls flat, it lacks emotion.

Now, while it is excellent that Noemi is an asexual character, asexual does not mean a lack of emotion. Take Immortal Code by Lillian Clark, for example. Clarke included an asexual character and ensured that her character had a personality. Nagamatsu missed the mark in bringing to life this character by forgetting to include emotion.

Nevertheless, Nagamatsu does highlight something important in her story. When Noemi is talking about her sexuality with Jonas she says, “There are no romances about people like me.” The line is terrific, explaining much about her personality, while also highlighting the lack of representation asexuality has in the media.

Then there are Jonas and Amberlyn. Amberlyn feels like an afterthought of a voice. While she is Link’s sister, her POV does not offer anything to the plot. The reader could skip over her POV entirely and not miss anything in the story. Jonas feels like an accessory to Noemi. Jonas has a great voice, and well thought out dynamic with Noemi, but at the end of the day, he is forgettable.

Final Thoughts

Overall, We Were Restless Things is an interesting debut novel, but it could have been better. Beautifully written, with magical realism as an added wonderful element, it only lacks in the characterization

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Product Details:

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

Page count: 416pp

Age Range: 13 & Over

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1659-1

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

List Price: $17.99

We Were Restless Things


Writing Quality


Character Development


"Couldn't Put It Down"-ness


Intellectual Depth





  • Great use of magical realism
  • Great representation


  • Lack characterization

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