ARC Review: DEAD END GIRLS by Wendy Heard (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: May 10th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC
Content warning: Murder, drug overdose, homophobic bullying, bullying, blackmail, attempted murder

In Dead End Girls, Maude wants to quit her life, but not in a way that prevents her from further participating. She has a plan to fake her death, but when her step-cousin, Frankie, catches onto the plan, she wants in. What then starts is a journey of being gay, doing crime and self-discovery as the two girls sprint away from their families and towards something else.

Exciting, unexpectedly tender, and a wild ride from start to finish.

This book is fun, but by no means is it fluffy. Heard does a phenomenal job layering both girls’ reason for wanting to leave their shitty families. I’m not going to speak about specifics because that would be spoilers. What I can say, is that while there are elements that are steeped in rich girl privilege, the book is aware of this and calls it out as it sees it. But the reasons are also so heart-breaking in ways that cannot be resolved with some grand gesture or even family therapy. It’s really well-done and compelling.

When it comes to the fake death strategy, the cracks are covered up enough that my suspension of disbelief held together for the whole book. What’s nice is that Heard also provides insight into what the adults around the girls are doing. Technology plays as much of a role as any character, providing to be both help and nemesis. Maude checking social media is by far among the most stressful bits. The tension ramps up and returns the sense of urgency. The pacing is simply exquisite, and I couldn’t keep myself away from it for any extended period of time.

My favorite thing is that this book makes me want to yell at the teens and the adults in equal measure. The ending is cathartic, and it’s admirable how little will stop these girls from escaping the nightmare that is their lives.

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