Read an ARC from NetGalley
Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape culture, predatory teacher, murder, suicide, substance abuse, guns
This twisty read follows the investigation for four girls. Three of them perhaps have something to do with the fourth’s murder. Secrets come out, and to protect each other and their truths, they have to stand up to a police department which doesn’t believe them and a school administration actively working against them.
Complex, evenly paced with compelling, complicated characters who are neither “good” nor “bad,” The Good Girls is a layered read that delivers a satisfying mystery and catharsis.
I am hooked on Bartlett’s use of female-led ensemble casts. The girls in this book have such deep inner lives that are intricately woven among themselves and within the context of the mystery. Each one has her own motivations and flaws, which kept me guessing as to the true circumstances behind Emma’s death.
This work also features deft use of interviews and newspaper clipping. The way those feed into contextualizing the murder and seeing Lorne from beyond the scope of the investigation provides so much immersion. It also helps introduce the subplot which led to the murder effectively. The reader gets a glimpse into the established attitudes towards students accusing their former teachers of misconduct, which helps set the stakes for what kind of uphill battle Claude, Gwen, and Avery are up against.
Each of our three girls are queer, and the rep felt true to me. What I did very much appreciate is that the girls’ queerness isn’t part of the forces working against them. The exploration is very interior and does not play a role in the final reveals. What I also appreciated were the nuances around how students may be experiencing the final semesters of college. Much care is taken into depicting what each girl would want from her future, based on her wants but also on the expectations placed. They all also have such different families that seeing those dynamics tug on the tension throughout added extra layers from start to finish.
Rich, complex, and ultimately heavy, it’s a story about three girls trying to do right by their classmate and each other. Perfect for fans of Sadie by Courtney Summers.