Title: The Girl Who Wasn’t Dead
Author: Samantha Boyette
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Genre(s): Young Adult, Mystery
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Prom was supposed to be the biggest night of senior year, but for Jenny Lewis it was the night she almost died. The night someone drugged her, loaded her in a car, and dumped her body in the river.
The next morning, her soaked prom dress was found on the riverbank. Her body was never found. People whispered that she’d killed herself or gotten drunk and stupid. People moved on, went to college, and stopped thinking about her. Months later, her ex-girlfriend and three other classmates received a text from an unknown number accusing them of her murder and claiming to have proof.
The text? It came from Jenny, not dead and ready to figure out who tried to kill her. There’s going to be an impromptu reunion and no one is leaving until the would-be murderer steps forward.
This book had a pretty interesting premise; not entirely original, but not something I’ve seen overdone. I was wondering how the author would reveal whodunnit, there were some really creative ways that it could have been done. Sadly, we just had the characters tell their side of the story. When I realized this was the way we were going to learn the story, I was a bit apprehensive. Did we really expect the “killer” to admit it? Really? I stuck with it though, seeing if it would get interesting or take any unsuspected twists.
I think my least favorite thing about this book was the characters. All of them were super unlikeable and unrealistic. These characters were written as dated stereotypes and their dialogue and actions were super unrealistic. These characters did some pretty awful things, but they were delivered in even worse ways. Every chapter is a new character’s point of view, but some are in the past and others are in the present. Chapters shift between third and first person (within the actual chapter), so it’s hard to assess what’s being said and what’s just there for the reader to absorb. Because of this, some details are lingered on or addressed in really weird ways
There was so much slut shaming in here that did not need to be included. It’s part of the stereotypical and dated character portrayal I addressed earlier. One character wears a prom dress with a slit up to the thigh and is referred to numerous times as “looking like the queen of slut town” or something similar. Yes, we are not supposed to like this character, but holy damn, if she was slut shamed one more time, I was going to lose it. Also, the lack of consent in this book was atrocious. Several of the characters used drugs and alcohol to manipulate others and even a passed out character had nude pictures taken of her. Oh, and to top it off we had some gay bashing and fat shaming, so yeah that happened.
Actually, this is going to get its own paragraph. We find out pretty early on that Jenny was having a relationship with another girl behind her boyfriend’s back. Is Jenny bi? Nope, a lesbian. Which, I have nothing wrong with, except that we don’t get a lot of bi rep and because we don’t get a lot of backstory of Jenny, it seems like a harmful representation of the community. Also, really, we’re going to have an “I don’t want anyone to know I’m gay so I’m going to cheat on my boyfriend” subplot in here? Really?
Characters aside, the plot itself just lost me during the last 20ish percent. By this point, several hints have been dropped as to who the “killer” was and it was kind of predictable. That would have been fine, except that this person does some stupid stuff afterward that turns this entire story on its head. It goes from being a slightly problematic 3-star read to a 2(2.5) star read. Without going into spoilers, this person just takes the reader out of the story and suspends any suspense that you may have felt up to this point. I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie Nine Dead, but this book did to me what that movie did; set us up for a unique-ish plot and completely ruin it in the last 10 minutes (or 10 percent).
Honestly, this book was one of my least favorites of the year. I had such high hopes for it, but there was just way too many problematic elements and the plot was just not that good. If you want to pick it up and check it out, I’m not going to stop you, but I think there are far better YA mystery books out there (*cough* One of Us is Lying *cough*). I really wanted to like this one. I really did, but it just was not doing it for me.
⭐️ – 1/5 Stars
[edit: upon further reflection, I am lowering my rating from 2-2.5 to 1 star. I can’t get over how awful the characters were and how problematic some elements are.]