My rating: 5/5 Stars!
Publisher: Simon Pulse (2013)
Length: 400 pgs
Format: Paperback, purchased from Amazon
Goodreads Synopsis: It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.
As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…
Last week I reviewed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and mentioned that it was the book of 2014 that gave me the strongest book hangover of 2014. I now stand corrected. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas shattered me. It twisted and turned my mind and my judgement, and left me gaping at its conclusion. This is the book that will keep me up at night.
This is the first book I’ve read by Abigail Haas and I am extremely impressed by how she tackles a mystery-thriller in the YA genre. She is gritty and honest in her portrayal of what the more adventure-seeking and party-centric teenagers indulge in. She’s uncensored with the topics of drug abuse, alcohol over indulgence, and sex, and these risky activities set a believable scene for the context of the murder. The case seems to draw influences from the Natalie Holloway and Amanda Knox cases, with Anna, the narrator, and her friends going to Aruba on a spring break-esque trip that ends in the brutal murder of one of the girls in the group, Elise. Haas does a great job at making the reader feel the spectacle of the courtroom trial and the game that is made out of the evidence, combining the narrative with 911 call transcripts, text message records, floor plans, newscaster scripts, etc. Handing these pieces of evidence to the reader in combination with the narration allows the reader to formulate their own theories and speculations at who may be the murderer.
Speaking of speculations, Haas features an interesting cast of characters who all have their own motivations and potentials for committing the crime. From the group of friends to the seemingly obsessive prosecutor, to Anna’s lawyer and embassy representative, Haas creates flashed out characters that all have such different emotional reactions to the case and the outcome. Readers will questions how reliable of a narrator Anna is, and see how multi-layered the relationships between Anna, Elise, and Tate (Anna’s boyfriend) are as the book skips between past and present. And the ending. The ending. Haas proves she knows how to write a plot twist, and I can honestly say I did not guess the culprit correctly (in the end, anyways, because my mind changed multiple times throughout reading the book).
This book has such a dark tone, not just because of the taboo-in-YA topics it covers but also because Haas does such an interesting job focusing on the dangers of obsession, the chaos of jealousy, and the dark undercurrent of co-dependency that runs in some friendships and relationships. Haas pushes the boundaries of YA and the results are phenomenal, and this dark tale had me on the edge of my seat, literally finishing the novel in 24 hours despite having a full day of work in this time period, and then causing me to immediately go back and reread the clues throughout the narrative once I knew who the killer was, to go over things I missed. I’m shocked that this book hasn’t received more publicity and praise, because Abigail Haas pushes the limits of the YA genre and combines it with the anxiety of a courtroom-thriller, and the results are phenomenal.
What I Loved:
- The various pieces of evidence presented in the text alongside the narration
- The wide case of characters who each had their own motives
- The past-to-present narrative style that helped the readers piece together the relationships in the books
What I Was Less Than Impressed With:
- The cover- I don’t think it’s awful (the version I have anyways) but I think it really underplays the content of the novel and polarizes it to a more “girly” audience when it’s really a thriller that can be appreciated by any gender
- I noticed a few typos in my copy
- Some of the flashbacks seemed a little juvenile, but it may have been part of the character growth of the characters’ relationships
Overall: This book is compulsively readable. You won’t be able to put it down, and you won’t believe the ending. It’s everything a murder-mystery book should be, and its realistically gritty and uncensored unlike a lot of the PG rated YA out there. Read it, and then let me know because I’m dying to discuss the ending with someone (pun intended!)
“Any one of us could be made to look a monster, with selective readings of our history.”