First Lines: Despite the summer heat, I’m sprawled on my bed, radio turned up loud to get the full benefit of Little Richard singing “Tutti Frutti.”
For whatever reason, this book has been catching my eye at the library for months. I didn’t know what it was about, but it kept drawing me back to it. I finally bought it at a sale for cheap and went to reading. I figured a mystery was a good change-up, right?
Nora figures the last day of her junior year in 1955 is going to be full of anticipation for the coming summer. But instead, it’s filled with horror as two girls–Nora’s friends–are found murdered in the woods near school. Her feelings about friendship, love, and religion are suddenly thrown into chaos. Most people in town believe the murderer is Buddy Novak, the ex-boyfriend of one of the murdered girls. Nora agrees at first, then questions it, and finally comes to believe Buddy is innocent. And she’s the only one in town who feels that way. So what really happened in those woods?
Ok, here’s what’s cool and kinda freaky at the same time: this is based on an actual murder mystery in the author’s life. Two girls were really killed in the woods in this manner, the town reacted this way, and no one knew who had done it. She wrote this to make sense of the tragedy, and it has this ring to it of authenticity.
I used the word “freaky” above. That’s because that authenticity is so real in some scenes that it’s actually scary/upsetting/freaky/whatever other adjective describes getting the willies. Because she’s basing this on her life (to some extent), she’s able to realistically depict the atmosphere of the town and the people’s reactions and it’s unsettling at times. It’s highly descriptive (not of the gory stuff), and I’m sure there are a couple of scenes I will never be able to fully forget.
Enough of that. I’m getting wigged out. Moving on, let’s talk about the story itself. It’s written as both a historical fiction, a mystery, and a very strong coming-of-age story. I mean, that latter part is the most powerful part of the story. I came for the mystery, but I ended up getting way more of the coming-of-age struggles.
The story is told mostly from Nora’s POV, but it also switches to different people and things. The murderer. Buddy. A diary entry. A letter. It tries to encompass so many different angles to the whole impact of a startling murder, and I thought it did a pretty good job.
The ending was…unexpected. Realistic, but not how stories usually end. I would say more, but I can’t. Spoilers. Sorry. (Not sorry.)
Overall, it’s a dramatic coming-of-age story with so many strong realistic points to it that you will not soon forget reading this.