September 9, 2013

Review: Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Dead Girls Don't Lie
Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Release Date: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC from Netgalley
Rating: The flattest mystery set in the most stereotypical small town I have ever had the misfortune to read about.
Rachel died at 2am... Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 

Jaycee and Rachel were best friends. But that was before... before that terrible night at the old house. Before Rachel shut Jaycee out. Before Jaycee chose Skyler over Rachel. Then Rachel is found dead. The police blame a growing gang problem in their small town, but Jaycee is sure it has to do with that night at the old house. Rachel’s text is the first clue—starting Jaycee on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth. 

In the follow-up to her powerful debut, Jennifer Shaw Wolf keeps readers on their toes in another dark, romantic story of murder and secrets.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Rachel's murdered the same night Jaycee ignores her call in favor of starting up a relationship with Skyler. But when Jaycee sees the text Rachel sent her the night she died, Jaycee can't help but feel like there's more to her friend's death than gang related violence. Then other clues pop up and it turns out that there really is more to this whole thing.

Let's break this down:

I really thought I was going to like is book.

You all know how much I love Veronica Mars (hi, Watch-Along). So a book about a girl's best friend dying and then said girl trying to figure out who dun it? Well, what wouldn't I love?

It turns out the answer is: A lot.

I'll admit to having some personal issues with this book. The setting - small church-based town with a lot of migrant workers and far too much racism - didn't really suit me. I don't generally like when a plot is heavily based on religion or when the main character is a goody-two-shoes mostly based on that religion. Leaning on those stereotypes kind of rubs me the wrong way.

But even when I remove the personal, I still feel like this book lets the reader assume a lot based on the setting. Like, obviously the migrant workers are all bad and in gangs and the church-going Caucasians in the town at all angels (I'm not entirely sure why the Mexican population - legal or otherwise - didn't seem to go to church but I don't think they did). This whole thing is such an insane red herring that you almost can't believe that a migrant worker - whether with gang connections or otherwise - committed the murder in question.

 I think this setting would have been fine if 1) the dividing line between the two sides wasn't drawn so clumsily an 2) the main character, Jaycee, wasn't so steadily on one side of the fence at the beginning of the story.

I feel like a lot of the scenes in this book were about the different sides of the lake, the gossip and who could been seen talking to who but its overemphasized to the pon t where I was honestly rolling my eyes. I feel like this constant reinforcement was meant to explain why Jaycee couldn't trust Eduardo even though Rachel told her to. But that doesn't really work for me because Rachel was her bestie and Rachel's mom was like her mom for years. I don't think a couple of months of distance could convince Jaycee to stop trusting her surrogate family. And yeah, she's a strict law abider, which I feel is why she would be inclined to go to the cops, but she hardly even does that. Instead she randomly chooses to trust a boy who kissed her the night Rachel died.

Now, speaking of this boy, the summary of this book makes it sound like there was some kind of relationship between him and Jaycee before this book started but the book kind of goes back and forth on that. Also, this book has a lot of: "I live in a small town and go to a small school but I don't know the name of a lot of the kids in my grade, especially that kid who's a jock a goes missing for 6 months of a random school year." Which doesn't make ANY SENSE AT ALL. The town described is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and all of their business, not the kind of town where a girl could realistically not know the name of a guy like Skyler. Hell, I went to a school with 115 kids per grade and I knew the names of everyone in my grade and most of the names of the kids in the two grades above and below. I'd also know if any one of those kids went missing for 6 months. There'd also be a million theories as to why and we'd all know the real reason within a week. 

Honestly, if Jaycee were my friend I shove her in a closet and lock the door before letting her spend any time with this boy. I honestly think her father did a good job, even though he wasn't the slightest bit honest with his daughter, nor did his concern over this situation appear to differ from his usual strict-father concern. And then he conveniently disappears at the end of the book. I don't even know what's happening here.

Now, Jaycee's stupidity is not limited to who she decides to tell about her sleuthing, her dating choices and her inability to listen to her father (which Jaycee DOES have in common with Veronica Mars). She's honesty the worst detective in the entire world. I'd say there's a total of 5 scenes were she does any real analytical thought. The rest of the book she's just kind of messing around with a guy she hardly knows, getting called stupid by a boy Rachel told her to trust and making a mess of her relationship with her father. And the clues she picks up? I still don't totally understand how they string together to make up the answer to "who dun it". I skimmed the last 40 pages, so maybe I missed something, but I don't think so.

Also, speaking of this boy who Rachel told Jaycee she could trust (Eduardo), well... he's kind of lame. I think he could have been a really interesting character but he turned out pretty flat. He's this tough guy who was hardly even present and really has no characterization beyond having a chip on his shoulder.

I dunno. I feel like a lot of this book didn't work for me because of the setting and played up stereotypes (that might be accurate but I just can't relate at all) but a lot of it didn't work because the characters fell into those stereotypes and didn't really have much else to them. Except maybe Rachel. But she's dead from minute one, so I'll never really know, will I? I will say that the solution to the mystery is pretty insane. The thrill came in there a little. But not even close to enough to redeem this book for me.

The long and short of it?

Sounds promising from the summary but the actual story is insanely unconvincing and flat.
World Building: Stereotypes to the max. And maybe the world is like this in some places, but I feel like it's kind of derivative and insanely dull.
Character Development: Jaycee doesn't DO anything. Things just keep happening to her. Oh, and everyone else in this story just kinda stands there. Snooooozefest.
Prose: The actual words told the story clearly enough, I just felt like some of the events in the story contradicted other events and JUST when I felt like I/the story was making progress, everything falls back to contradictory-town.
Would I Recommend This Book?: Nope. I mean, if you can get past the stereotypes and like small town stories, maybe you'll do better with this book than I did. But this is not a remarkable or memorable mystery by any means.

Okay. Enough ranting from me. Have you read this one? Did you plan to? Are you still going to? Let's talk it out in the comments below.


  1. Pardon my sobbing all over your blog. I loved her first book, but this does sound awful. I'm not much for mysteries anyway, and bleh racism why would you do that?

    I'm taking this off my GR to-read, though if everyone else loves it, I might put it back. Somehow I don't see that happening though, unless this is your Devil.

  2. Boooo, what a shame. This sounded so good! But the stereotypes and racism and stupid heroine just don't work for me. Especially those logic flaws. If a kid went missing for six months in a small town, that would be ALL ANYONE TALKED ABOUT. Heck, if that happened at my high school in Los Angeles with 300 kids per grade, it would be all anyone talked about. Not realistic at all.


  3. Aww, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this one. I really disliked the story line of her first book though so maybe my expectations were low? The relationship between the townspeople and the migrant workers was actually one of my favorite parts of the book. I grew up in a town on eastern Long Island that has a very big migrant worker community and I think the author did a great job accurately portraying how a lot of people feel about migrant workers. I certainly don't think it's right, but I definitely give her props for depicting, at least in my mind, a tough situation fairly accurately.

  4. Oh dear! I'm worried about reading this one now, simply because it does sound fairly stereotypical in details and in plot. We'll have to see what happens when I actually read it!


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