Author: Abigail Haas
Simon & Schuster RRP $12.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Do you like it when characters or events mess with your mind when you’re reading? When you are never entirely sure what is true and doubts linger as you read, poking you from time to time? If not, Dangerous Girls is not the book for you. However, If you like books that keep you guessing right to the end, that unsettle and surprise you, this is a good choice. I’d heard some good reviews, so I was keen to give it a go, and while I wasn’t really surprised by the ending (no spoilers, but more on that later), I found it a quick, good read.
In Australia we have “schoolies” or “leavers” which would probably equate to Spring Break (at least as it is described in Dangerous Girls). High school seniors Anna, Tate, Elise and a few other close friends are in Aruba without their parents’ supervision for a debauched holiday that promises to be the time of their lives. Drinking, sex, hook-ups, clubs, complete freedom … these kids are in Aruba for a good time and to hell with the consequences (who thinks of consequences at times likes these?). Everyone’s having fun, especially free-spirited Elise. When Elise is found brutally murdered, her friends are shocked and scared … who would do this to their friend? Why?
Even more shocking is when Anna and Tate are arrested, suspected of Elise’s murder. Locked in prison, awaiting trial, Anna can only watch helplessly as her friends turn against her and away from her – even Tate, whose family’s wealth secures his freedom. As the media zooms in and tightens the noose around Anna’s neck (and freedom), Anna appeals for help. Surely someone will believe that she did not, could not, kill her best friend? They were so close – they were going to go to college together. And as time goes on, Anna becomes frustrated in the media (and her former friends’) portrayal of Elise – Anna knew her better than anyone. Anna knows that Elise was treading on some dangerous ground, so why are people twisting things? It’s nail-biting stuff as Anna awaits the court’s verdict. Will she prove her innocence?
The novel is told from Anna’s viewpoint, alternating with flashback and present events. It builds a picture of Anna and Elise’s relationship, showing how close the girls were, but also highlighting some of the more negative aspects of Elise’s personality. It works well because for the most part it’s easy to identify with Anna’s dismay at her arrest; it’s just as easy to invest hope that she will be proven innocent. However, this method also allows the seeds of doubt to be sown – we are, after all, only hearing Anna’s side … how reliable is she as a narrator? Haas skilfully creates suspicion and just as deftly whisks it away, leaving the reader wondering what, who, how, why, when. Most reviewers have commented that the ending blew them away. Whatever you do, don’t skip ahead to read the ending – you do need the build up to feel the impact and disbelief. As I said at the start, I wasn’t really surprised by the ending, but I think it was executed well.
Both the ongoing trial of Amanda Knox and the Aruba murder of Natalee Holloway murder case spring to mind when reading Dangerous Girls; these high-profile cases involve murders that took place while the victim was on vacation, placing the accused at the mercy of a foreign court. If either of those cases have caught your attention, Dangerous Girls might appeal, even if YA is not a genre you often read, as is the case for me. As a YA title, it’s a great read and will certainly give more than a few readers cold chills, as well as the experience of other strong emotions like frustration and anger.
Available from good bookstores. This copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Bookish treat: Cupcakes … ’cause they’re cute and girly and surprisingly dangerous.