Published by Christy Ottaviano Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Goodreads: ★★ 1/2
When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?
I was so excited to receive a review copy of The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry, as the synopsis sucked me in right away. This book follows teenager Olivia. When she was just three, her mother was murdered in front of her when her family went to cut down a Christmas tree in the woods. Her father was blamed for the murder, but when one of his bones turns up at the crime scene fourteen years later, authorities now believe he was killed that same day. Olivia now returns to her hometown in hopes of discovering who the killer is before the killer finds her first.
While I really loved the idea behind this story, unfortunately the book fell a bit flat for me. My main issue is with the writing style. I’ve never read a book by April Henry before, but the writing in The Girl I Used to Be felt very formulaic. The story is told from Olivia’s first-person-perspective, and each chapter follows a certain format. First, Olivia learns some clues by talking with the people in her hometown, and then she mulls over those clues by asking a bunch of rhetorical questions at the end of the chapter. I found these questions to be very annoying, mainly due to the sheer number of them. If we got a few questions throughout the story, that would build suspense and be fine. Instead we got lists upon lists of questions, and it left me feeling as if each chapter was just repeating itself.
Moreover, I think the short length of this novel really detracted from my rating of the book. The Girl I Used to Be is only 240 pages, and a lot of things go unexplained because of that. For example, the book opens with Olivia living in her own apartment in Portland, Oregon. She then decides to move back to her hometown, and she goes to the local thrift store to buy sheets and kitchen utensils. However, we never find out why Olivia never goes back to her old apartment to get her belongings, or even if she cancelled her old lease. This novel would be a lot stronger if it was longer, as Henry would be able to fully develop the story and its characters.
Another critique I have with this book is the romance aspect. Not only was the romance cringeworthy and full of insta-love, but the book would be exactly the same if there was no romance whatsoever. The only thing that would change is the two kissing scenes, which were quite awkward and didn’t fit within the book’s overall plot. I almost feel like the romance was added just for the sake of including a romance.
That being said, I am quite disappointed with The Girl I Used to Be. I really do love the idea behind the book, and I read it quickly because it is fast-paced and a short read. If you are a new reader of the mystery genre, this might be a good place to start. I found the ending predictable, and unfortunately I feel like this sort of story isn’t very unique. Thus, I only recommend it if you are looking to break into the thriller genre, or if you want a short and quick beach read this summer.
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