Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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 harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
Awaiting the judge’s decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone ever imagined…”
Okay, everyone take note: this is how a suspense novel should be plotted. Holy cow. The thoughts about this book are just tumbling around in my head like popcorn, because it was that good of a thriller. The final two words of the next to the last chapter will blow your mind.
But let me see if I can rein myself in enough to be coherent about this.
Anybody who watches the news at all will be familiar with the general plotline: an American girl in a foreign country is accused of murder and must defend herself in the face of circumstantial evidence against her. Obviously, this book gets to go far beyond the generalities, in that we as readers get to “see” much of what happens leading up to the murder. We also get background on the victim, the defendant, and those associated with them. We get that omniscient view that you can’t get from a televised trial.
And this book differs from other crime novels in that the trial here is not one of carefully researched timelines and mountains of evidence. There’s guesswork and hearsay, suppositions and tentative conclusions. Nothing about this tale is cut and dried—the characters don’t get easy answers, and neither do readers. If you’re like me, you’re going to go through this book thinking that first one person committed the crime, then someone else, and then someone else again. The twists and turns in this plot come thick and fast, and it’s hard to sort out what’s relevant and what’s not.
More than anything, I thought that this was a novel about the drama that the justice system and the American media have turned into over the past couple of decades. The narrative jumps around past and present scenes with Anna and Elise, but it’s also intercut with transcripts of interrogations, media exposes and court proceedings. As the evidence builds in the courtroom, the court of public opinion is having a field day with the info that they can find out. Just as Anna’s plight is transformed into something close to a scripted theater piece, Haas does the same thing with her readers. She’s crafting her drama too, swaying the way you view the characters in a way that, come the end of the novel, will have you questioning just what you see on the news every night.
Normally, in my reviews, I talk about characters and setting and so on in addition to the plot. While the characters are well crafted (notice I don’t say likeable), and the stark settings of the trial are in tune with Anna’s experience of the justice system in Aruba, it was the progress of the story and the careful creation of “what happened to lead to this” that had me utterly hooked. I read this in the course of just a few hours, and would love to read it again and see if there are any little hints that I missed the first time around.
Dangerous Girls is an incredibly well-written teen suspense, and it will likely make you think long and hard about trusting what you see in the news. Now I need all of my friends to go and read this novel so that I’ll have someone to talk to about it!
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 400
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-book on PulseIt