Review: The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common // Two Missing Girls, Nothing in Common, Or So They Thought

the lives of desperate girlsSeries: Standalone

Publication: September 19th 2017 by Penguin Teen

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

[Add to Goodreads]

Jenny Parker doesn’t really fit in anywhere in her tiny town in northern Ontario. About as unremarkable as someone can be, Jenny isn’t particularly pretty, smart, or talented in any way. And her one defining feature that everyone knows is that she’s Chloe Shaughnessy’s best friend. Chloe is pretty, vibrant, and outgoing. With her family well off, Chloe knows she is destined for greater things than what is given in Thunder Creek. But after a terrible incident at a party, Chloe’s life starts to spiral out of control and shifts to the worst year she’s ever experienced. When Chloe disappears, Jenny is suddenly the talk of the town after being the last one to see her. But more is going on in the so-called sleepy town of Thunder Creek when a few weeks later a dead Native girl is found in the woods—and the police don’t seem to care. In this coming-of-age story, Jenny is stretched and challenged as she starts to investigate Helen’s murder and discovers how little she knew about her town. And all the while she is pressured by the police about her silence on Chloe’s whereabouts the night she disappeared. It seems Thunder Creek is a dangerous place for a teenage girl.

This book is focused largely on real issues. Although the plot lends an interesting backdrop, I really feel that Jenny’s experiences and growth is the real feature of this book rather than plot progression (though there is that as well!) Being an American, I honestly had no idea what life is like in the parts of Canada this book is set in and I loved becoming more educated while being able to read a fiction book.

Jenny was a really interesting character for me. Though she wasn’t particularly likeable in any way, I really felt like I got to know her through the writing style and through her actions in the book. Although some readers may find her behavior odd and un-relatable, I like that Jenny portrays that grief doesn’t have to look a certain way. She shows the other side of human reaction in that she decides to take action and stay busy with investigating the other girl’s murder rather than sitting around and worrying about the disappearance of her best friend. Jenny’s denial and many coping mechanisms, including her spontaneous relationship with her brooding classmate Tom, were a large part of the book and I found it to be extremely intriguing. Jenny is a very complex character yet she was kept simplistic in her portrayal throughout the book so she never became overwhelming.

The plot was rather slow but like I mentioned before, I don’t think the plot is really the focus of this book. I certainly enjoyed following Jenny on her journey to investigate Helen’s murder and the people that she met along the way. I personally had no idea that there was a race issue in Canada like there is in America and I like that Helen’s family brings more attention to Canada’s First Nations peoples and their struggles. Although I wish that the book had had more of a solid conclusion, I do understand why the author chose to end the book the way she did. The portrayal of how life really is runs rampant in this book to the end and, just like life, it was just a bit frustrating.

In the wake of 13 Reasons Why, this book continues with hitting the hard issues with teenagers. With themes of bullying, depression, rejection, and racism, this book isn’t shy by any means. If you can handle these themes, along with rape (not depicted), suicide mentions, and murder, you’ll want to pick this book up. Take a look at what it’s like to live in the North, and what it means to be human.

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What do YOU think? How would you react if your best friend suddenly disappeared? Would you ever be brave enough to investigate a murder on your own? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

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