Read: 16th January 2021 – 20th January 2021
Spoilers in review: Mild
CW: murder, attempted suicide, underage alcohol consumption, death of a family member, death of a family member from illness, gang violence, unchallenged fatphobia, unchallenged homophobia, unchallenged classism, poor portrayal of mental illness
The girl who… survived
The girl who… inspires
The girl who… has something to hide
People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.
Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.
But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.
When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .
This book is a huge case of wasted potential.
This should have been an examination of trauma, and of the unrealistic expectations that can be placed on young people, and how the two combined can have catastrophic effects on people’s mental health. Leah witnessed the murder of her mother and younger sister as a child. Since then she’s been the face of a charity focused on rehabilitation for young offenders, and a minor celebrity in her own right. That’s a Lot for someone to go through. There was an opportunity to dig deep into this, and Cordani just didn’t do that.
This should have also been an examination of fame, and the effects that can have on people’s personal lives. Leah is a minor celebrity through no fault of her own, which makes her personal privacy something that she and her father fiercely protect. Her step-sister Ellie is a YouTuber and social media influencer, who even gets requests to collab from other social media stars. Except we barely see any of Ellie’s interactions with social media, and barely any of her pov chapters dedicate any time to it. We’re told that it’s important to her, but it ultimately took up the equivalent of less than a couple of pages, and could’ve been excised from the book in its entirety without changing anything. There was the opportunity here to explore different kinds of fame, both wanted and unwanted, and the potential consequences of sharing too much about your life either with the press or online. And Cordani did nothing with it! Ellie’s rise to internet fame was the closest thing this book had to a subplot, and it would’ve been an excellent subplot, but as it is it’s not mentioned enough for me to feel like I can describe it as a subplot at all.
This should have also been about the difficulties that come with suddenly gaining a step-family. This is the theme that Cordani comes closest to actually exploring. Leah and Ellie’s initial dislike of each other was very girl-hatey which I didn’t enjoy at all, but the chapters near the end when they’ve finally clicked with each other and are working as a team are the best ones in the book. There’s a line from Leah where she makes the connection between her new step-siblings and the baby sister she saw die that was genuinely a great character moment! It’s a shame that it was just the one moment. This is the theme that Cordani came closest to actually exploring, yes, but that exploration was surface level at best.
There were also chapters from the pov of the killer, Boyd. His mental illness is never named, but was probably supposed to be schizophrenia. Probably. There were aspects of it that made me think that Cordani was actually aiming for something like DID or OSDD, but didn’t do any research, so really I couldn’t tell. People with mental illnesses are statistically significantly more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators, but that inconvenient fact never gets mentioned in this book, despite the decision to write Boyd in this way. I nearly dnf’d this book when I realised what Boyd’s deal was going to be. This isn’t okay.
There was no need to include the detail of Ellie’s mother’s friend being slightly homophobic, it was completely unnecessary. Also Cordani needs to talk to some real teenage girls. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe someone else as ‘bosomy’ before in my entire life.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people absolutely shouldn’t read this, but thinking about it makes me sad because to me it reads like the ghost of a much better story. You can probably skip this one.
I received an e-arc through Netgalley in return for an honest review. Any quotes may differ in the published version.
About The Author
When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of PE by saying she would use the time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercisedodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who… , and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002. In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including That’s Life, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel. She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.
About The Blogger
El is a 21 year old university student from the UK who loves to read and loves talking about what they read. They particularly like to focus on books featuring lgbtq+ main characters.