Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Girl I Used to Be

Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.” The Girl I Used to Be, an engrossing YA mystery from April Henry proves the adage true, as the novel is based on an unlikely real-life mystery from the 1980s.

From the publisher: “Fourteen years ago, Ariel's parents took her to the forest to cut down a Christmas tree—and never come back. When a three-year-old is found at a Walmart, it takes time for authorities to connect her with a missing family over a hundred miles away. Then Ariel's mother's body is found in the woods. She's been stabbed 19 times. Since she had a rocky relationship with Ariel's father, everyone figures he just snapped. Ariel ends up in foster care, and eventually a failed adoption leaves her with a new name: Olivia. Now a human body found in the woods has changed what everyone thought was true about that day. DNA results prove that her dad was killed along with her mother, and it was the killer who took the girl to the Walmart. Now Ariel/Olivia is determined to uncover the truth. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?”

While this isn't the next Murder on the Orient Express, it is nonetheless a page-turning, fast moving small book which you can easily plow through in one sitting. The pace is basically break-neck speed from start to finish. The author jumps straight into the tale without really any character development or build up in tension because it's already ratcheted up to the nth degree. The fictional part of the story pickups from the real mystery when Olivia discovers that her father wasn't in fact a psychopathic killer but a victim like her mother; no longer someone to fear, but to mourn. Now 17 and an emancipated minor, Olivia decides to travel to her old hometown, attend her father's memorial service and relying on her new name to hide her true identity, just maybe, catch a killer.

There are a few, oh c'mon, kind of moments which you have to overlook or put the book down and stop reading. For example, the fact that a 17 year old with a minimum wage job could go into a real estate office and just rent a house for the month, or that the same 17 year old could go around asking strangers questions about a 14 year old murder but nobody would be suspicious. In spite of all of this, I have to say it was entertaining. It had a cute little romance in it, nothing serious - they're 17 after all, Olivia was a likable and sympathetic character, and it offered just enough suspense and raised enough questions that you wanted to know more.

The Girl I Used to Be is a light yet enjoyable YA mystery; perfect for a young teen in your life or for a quick poolside read while sipping a fruity summer concoction, alcohol optional.