I’m reviewing this book partially because I really enjoyed it, and partially because every time I post a book review which isn’t this book, my sister complains. In any case, after reading Far From You, I checked it out on GoodReads, and a comment which came up once or twice was that it was just a poor man’s version of Dangerous Girls.
So, naturally, my curiosity was piqued, and I went looking for Dangerous Girls without further ado.
For starters, though, let me talk about that cover art! I love it! It reminds me a lot of Gone Girl, and the matching covers for Gillian Flynn’s other books, so I was instantly put in mind of an unreliable narrator, complex female characters, and probably disagreeable people in general. We already know from the tagline on the front that there are two girls and a boy involved, and a murder, so it was clear that this wasn’t going to be some nicely nicely story of a group of teenagers having a wholesome spring break on a gorgeous sunny beach. And, given that the book centres around the brutal murder of one of the holiday-goers, well, this was unsurprising.
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…
Dangerous Girls was one of the first in what seems to be a theme for me this year, of unhealthy friendships, and books with stings in the tail, which are engrossing at the time, but lose their sheen a little after reading.
When I first read Dangerous Girls, I was absolutely thrilled with it, and thought it was really brilliant, but actually, as the months have passed, it has slipped a bit in my estimation. The thing about Dangerous Girls, I think, is that it’s good only once. AS soon as you know what’s been going on, the thrill of it is kind of lost, and I don’t think it would stand up as well to a second reading as it did the first.
But that first reading was really excellent – I raced through this book in only a few days, and loved it! Gorgeous settings, intense friendships, charmed romances – what could possibly have gone so wrong for these beautiful, rich, privileged kids that one of them could end up dead and two more in the frame for it?
The book is told in a mixture of present progression and flashbacks, showing the development of Anna and Elsie’s friendship as they deal with high school, relationships, and family issues. This is contrasted against Anna’s time in prison miles away from home, as it slowly becomes clear that the police and prosecutors think Anna killed her best friend, and they’re not interested in looking for alternatives.
I really enjoyed the depiction in this book of female friendship, especially in the teen years – it reminded me a lot of Birdy (well, Birdy reminded me of it, since I read Birdy later) and of Far From You, and it was all really melodramatic and exciting. The mix of flashbacks and present day really added a sense of intensity, as you could feel Anna’s devastation at the death of her friend, and her frustration at being stuck in a foreign legal system.
The characters of Anna and Elsie (and to a lesser degree Tate) were what really drove this book for me – the friendship between them was the strongest thing about the book, and the most compelling as you worked your way through it. For it to have ended in such a tragically gruesome way just adds to the shock factor of the book.
Although I originally gave this book five stars, because on finishing I really appreciated its impact, on reflection, I’m downgrading it to four. This is for one reason of my own, and one reason which Sinéad pointed out that, now that I’ve thought about it, makes a lot of sense.
My reason was that I had worked out the ending long before it was revealed as a part of the narrative – I always find that a little disappointing, especially when it’s supposed to be such a strong finish. Turning the page and going ‘oh yeah, I thought/knew that was going to happen’ is very disappointing.
The second reason, then, is that the entire book is built on a pretty flimsy conceit – going back and reconsidering the development of the book, and the style of the narrative, it would be impossible for it to really happen, unless the entire purpose was simply to save up the surprise/twist at the end.
So although I still love it, and would recommend it quite highly, it’s not quite the five-star book I originally thought.