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Literature / Sharp Objects

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This family isn't nuclear. It's toxic.

Sharp Objects is the debut novel by Gillian Flynn. The plot revolves around Camille Preaker, a journalist sent to investigate a potential Serial Killer in her hometown after the disappearance of two little girls. As she is forced to reconnect with her estranged mother and precocious half-sister, Camille comes to suspect that her family is somehow involved with the case.

The novel was adapted into a miniseries by HBO, with Amy Adams starring as Camille. The series aired from July 8, 2018 to August 26, 2018.

Tropes featured in Sharp Objects include:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Adora flat-out admits that she doesn't love Camille. More seriously, it's also revealed that she poisons her children in order to make them sick and gain sympathy and attention, which ultimately lead to Marian's death.
    • Her treatment of Amma isn't much better as Amma learnt early on she had to behave a certain way to please Adora and became so insanely jealous that Adora was spending time with Ann and Natalie that she murdered them. Not to mention she still purposefully makes Amma sick despite that being the direct cause of Marian's death.
  • The Alcoholic: Camille. To the point where Amma offers her a joint because it'll make her less sad.
  • Alliterative Family: All the Crellins have names beginning with 'A', which Camille notes with some resentment.
  • Alpha Bitch: Amma and her Girl Posse practically rule the town. Camille makes some comments that imply she was also part of a Girl Posse like this at her youth, but she's the Token Good Teammate - which she agrees isn't good enough.
  • Attention Whore: Camille notes this about her sister, stating that Amma "didn't want anyone to get more attention than herself". It's also taken up to eleven near the end, in which it's implied that the reason Amma murders Lily is a fear that Camille might like her better.
  • Attractiveness Discrimination: In Wind Gap pretty women like Adora can get away with horrible behavior with no repercussions while less attractive women are consistently mentioned to be treated poorly. This seems to start at a young age as in Amma's group of cronies Camille notices that Jodes, the least beautiful girl, is at the bottom of the pecking order and is often bullied by her "friends." Interestingly, this is never mentioned to be the case for men in the town.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals:
    • Amma goes to watch the pigs at Adora's hog farm and casually rips apart a firefly when drunk. Ann Nash was also something of a pariah the summer before she died for killing a neighbour's bird with a stick.
    • The whole town is casual about pig slaughter. Though that is natural for a town where pigs are the biggest industry, it also symbolizes the cruelties to which everyone in Wind Gap seems oblivious. After she moves out, Camille is no longer able to eat ham, and her mother (and probably the rest of the town) seems to view that as odd.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Camille is beautiful, but significantly less so with her clothes off, due to the extreme cutting she's done to herself. Amma and Adora are the "unblemished" variety, and both are seriously bad.
  • Big Brother Instinct: John Keene is still mourning Natalie, which everyone in Wind Gap finds suspicious.
    • Camille used to have this for Marian- she still isn't over her death even well into adulthood. And even though Amma's behaviour disturbs her, she automatically steps in when she thinks John Keene is flirting with Amma, defensively noting that she doesn't like him talking that way to her thirteen-year-old sister.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Vickery and Richard rescue Camille right as Adora is ready to poison her to death.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Both Adora and Amma are masters of this. Adora is beloved in Wind Gap even though her behaviour is very "off," while she's verbally and psychologically abusive to Camille at home. Amma plays at being sweet and docile at home, but is outrageously promiscuous and foul-mouthed outside the house.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Adora is finally punished for killing Marian and the murderer of Ann and Natalie is caught, but Amma will get out of jail when she turns eighteen and though Camille is being taken care of by Curry and his wife, she's left with severe emotional and mental scars from uncovering the truth — and still retains the physical scars from her past, which drove Richard away without a word.
  • Black Comedy: Camille uses plenty of this in her prose as she narrates the story and observes how things have or have not changed since she left Wind Gap.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ann and Natalie's missing teeth, Natalie's painted nails, the scar on Meredith's thumb and missing earlobe, Adora's bedroom, Amma's dollhouse…
  • Children Are Innocent: Deconstructed. Amma's outward girlishness is a facade she dutifully maintains to please her mother, and she eagerly sheds this persona once she's out with her friends, in which she has casual sex and experiments with drugs at the age of thirteen. Camille was also less than innocent as a child, as she engaged in (ambiguously consensual) sexual endeavors in order to gain male approval, masturbated compulsively before going to sleep, and developed a lifelong addiction of cutting words into her skin.
  • Creepy Child: Amma and James Capisi.
  • Creepy Dollhouse: Amma obsessively makes hers resemble Adora's house, and smashes it up if anything is "wrong" in any way. It's also where she keeps her victims' teeth.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The two dead girls are found with their teeth removed. It's later revealed that Amma took them in order to replicate the ivory floor of her mother's bedroom in her doll's house.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Amma, whose validation complex is so severe that she readily lets her mother abuse her, under a misguided notion that Adora's cruelty and love are somehow connected. Contrast with Camille, who went the complete opposite direction — she refuses to let her mother dote on her under any circumstances, making her The Unfavorite in the process.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: After he sees her scars, Camille never sees Richard again, which she figured would happen. Catching her in a hotel room with another man, not to mention one who is still in high school (though 18) didn't help either.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Preaker/Crellin women. Camille is a cutter who struggles with depression; Amma is barely into her teens and already drinks, takes drugs and is sexually promiscuous, as well as a vicious bully and a murderer; and Adora has Munchausen's by proxy and deliberately makes Amma sick even after this resulted in the death of her second daughter Marian years before.
  • Character Tics: Adora pulls on her eyelashes when she's agitated.
  • Eye Scream: Natalie slashed another girl across the eyes with a pair of scissors, permanently blinding her in one eye, which is why the family moved to Wind Gap.
  • Fille Fatale: Amma.
    Amma’s sexual offerings seemed a form of aggression. Long skinny legs and slim wrists and high, babied voice, all aimed like a gun. Do what I want; I might like you.
  • Freudian Excuse: To say that Amma is messed up is an understatement, but the actions of her mother make a lot of her behavior understandable. It's also implied that Adora is the way she is at least in part because of her parents.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Why Ann and Natalie were murdered- Amma couldn't stand having to share Adora with anyone else.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Reconstructed. Amma is the maiden (sexually-active, adventurous, and even associated with Artemis), though this counts as Troubling Unchildlike Behavior as she's a young teenager (thirteen in the book). Adora is the mother: she's obsessed with taking care of girls, even those that don't want her (like Camille), and her "medicines" are poisonous. Camille is the crone. She remains single and unmarried, despite her Ship Tease with Richard, being regarded as young and beautiful, and being repeatedly told that she should have a baby by Amma and her toxic friends. She does a better job at taking care of Amma than Adora did, but it ultimately goes wrong and she ends up being essentially adopted by Curry and Eileen.
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • Brad Brucker; in Camille's words, "He was the type of husband to live where Katie said, impregnate Katie when she asked, buy Katie the Pottery Barn sofa she wanted, and otherwise shut up."
    • Alan, too. Even after Adora is found guilty of killing Marian, he still writes and visits her every day while she's in prison.
  • Hollywood Psych: Camille self-harms, which doesn't qualify it for this trope. The problem? Camille is a gramophomaniac and carves full words into herself.
  • Hunting Is Evil: Camille notes that the boys she grew up with would hunt in the woods for sport. They enjoyed the thrill of hunting and weren't particularly sophisticated about it. In particular she describes them as cocky and aggressive.
    The boys I knew, who began young, were blood hunters.They sought that fatal jerk of a shot-spun animal, fleeting silky as water one second, then cracked to one side by their bullet.
  • Ironic Name:
    • Amma's full first name, Amity, means "friendship", and considering Amma's a vicious bully and even considered killing Jodes
    • "Amma" is also an anagram for "Mama," which, as one reviewer of the final episode of the miniseries notes, foreshadows the twist.
    • Adora = "adore"/"adoration". Adora thinks she loves her children to death.
  • It's All About Me: Adora only really cares about herself and her public appearance. As a result of her mental instability, she cared more about her outfits and attention she was receiving than she cared about Marian, who she poisoned to death. Amma, too, is completely self obsessed and will destroy anyone who tries to get between her and the attention she needs.
  • Kids Are Cruel: And Amma and her crew are only the tip of the iceberg; throughout the novel, Camille recounts perpetrating, witnessing and being the victim of similar cruelties throughout her school days.
  • Like a Son to Me: Curry and his wife, Eileen, end up taking in Camille to look after her at the novel's end.
  • Men Don't Cry: Played for Drama, John Keene openly mourning Natalie is branded "weird" by nearly everyone in Wind Gap, claiming a teenage boy would rather die than cry in public, apparently even if his little sister has been brutally murdered.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Despite her young age, Amma is described as quite promiscuous, and frequently dons revealing clothing and exhibits sexual behavior to boys and men. She is also noted, multiple times, to be stunningly beautiful.
  • Münchausen Syndrome: Adora has the by proxy variety, poisoning her daughters in order to make them more docile and gain attention for herself.
  • Mysterious Parent: Camille tries to get answers from Adora about who her father is, but Adora reveals nothing. He was not anyone important in Adora's life: essentially he served as a sperm donor for Adora's child, something that only she owned that Joya could not take from her.
  • Neat Freak: Camille notes one thing she did inherit from Adora is a compulsive neatness.
  • Nice Girl: Becca seems to be a genuinely pleasant woman, unlike Camille's former friends, and is clearly a little irked by the needless drama in the group.
  • Nothing Nice About Sugar and Spice: Adora and Amma are both generation-specific versions.
    • Evil Matriarch Adora is The Münchausen and enjoys making all her daughters sick and being viewed as the perfect mother even if it meant killing her youngest, Marian.
    • Amma, on the other hand, is viewed as an innocent little girl while murdering rivals for her mother's and Camille's attention and putting their teeth in her Creepy Dollhouse.
  • Parental Substitute: It's made clear in both the book and TV series that Jackie behaved more like a mother to Camille than Adora ever did. And Frank and Eileen Curry are genuinely loving and concerned about Camille's welfare, which makes them about the only people in the book to genuinely care for her.
  • Plastic Bitch: Played With. Jackie is Adora's best childhood friend and Camille's surrogate mom. Camille mentions that she has obviously just had a face lift, which is still swollen and frightening to look at. Although she shows Camille more love than Adora ever did or does, Jackie is also shown getting into vicious arguments with her "friends" and clearly lived in denial that Adora murdered Marian.
  • Purple Prose: The appearance of John Keene has Camille waxing on about how pretty he is.
  • Rape as Backstory: Camille was gang raped at a party in her early teens.
  • Self-Harm: Camille is in recovery from a habit of carving words into her skin, something that makes her self-conscious and drives her to keep covered up at all times.
  • Ship Sinking: The budding romance between Richard and Camille sinks instantly the moment that he sees her without her clothes.
  • The Sociopath: Neither Amma nor her gang of girls (except for Jodes) has any remorse whatsoever for their crimes, going so far as to pilfer gifts left for the dead girls.
  • Southern Gothic: A twenty-first century version. The protagonist is the Black Sheep of a rich and affluent family, who returns to her home town amidst a backdrop of murders, violence and dark family history.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: The three women who aren't Camille in the Preaker family. Adora is the wife, Marian is the child, and thirteen-year-old Amma is disturbingly the seductress.
  • Tomboy: Both Ann Nash and Natalie Keene were noted to have wild streaks and intense tempers.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Marian. She might have lived had Adora not been her mother. Camille notes that people say this about Ann and Natalie, but don't actually mean it, as she calls Meredith out for it.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Amma to her clique, arguably. She gets them to collaborate in acts of bullying and in murdering Ann and Natalie.
  • Trashy True Crime: Camille offhandedly mentions at the end of the book that Marian's death has become content for many, many "dime store paperbacks". Though a writer herself, she refuses to participate as she finds them disgusting.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior:
    • Amma drinks, takes drugs and has sex, and that's just for starters. It's also alleged that she pimps out other girls to older boys, she seems to enjoy watching animals in pain, and she murders three girls who were drawing the attention of her mother (which Amma sees as unfair, considering what she allows Adora to do to her) removing their teeth as souvenirs to put in her doll's house. She's thirteen.
    • Subverted with Ann and Natalie, who Camille suspects were targeted because of their violent outbursts, though it later becomes clear that they were suffering badly from being bullied at school.
  • The Un-Favourite: Both Camille and Amma have grown up under the ever-present awareness that Marian was Adora's favorite child. As noted in the book after The Reveal, being the favorite child of a Munchausen's by Proxy parent is very much not a blessing.
  • Victim-Blaming: Camille says that she sometimes think rape and/or murder victims "get what they deserved".
  • Villainous Lineage: After Adora is arrested and Camille takes custody of her sister, she worries that she has it in her to do the same things her mother did. Played straight between Adora and Amma.
  • Wasted Beauty: Camille is considered extremely beautiful, and no-one can understand why she hasn't married or had children. It's because she is ashamed about being covered in scars left from cutting words into her skin as part of ritualistic self-harm since she was a young teenager, which everyone considers repulsive when they see it. (The one exception is John, with whom Camille wouldn't have any sort of sexual or long-lasting relationship because he is grieving deeply and only eighteen to her over-thirty.)
  • Yandere: Amma; she murdered Ann and Natalie because of extreme jealousy over Adora's attention to them, and later murdered Lily because she thought Camille liked her better.