Elise is dead.
And someone must pay.
Anna, her boyfriend Tate, best friend Elise and a group of close friends set off on a debaucherous Spring Break trip to Aruba. But paradise soon turns into a living nightmare when Elise is brutally murdered.
Soon Anna finds herself trapped in a foreign country and fighting for her freedom. As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone is questioning her innocence. To the rest of the world, Anna isn’t just guilty, but dangerous. As the court case unfolds the truth is about to come out, and it’s more shocking than you could ever imagine…
I’ve regretted every display of emotion I had throughout this book about two minutes after it was over, because I had barely taken into myself the knowledge that I’ve reached the last page before I realized that this book had a knife so deep in my side I didn’t feel it until it twisted.
I still am not certain what emotion I most strongly associate with Dangerous Girls but that ending made me want to immediately disconnect from all social media and go herd sheep and sell berries and mushrooms and herbal salves on the side of some mountain road for a living.
So, what is this book about?
Dangerous Girls begins with a catastrophic event: a distressed 991 call heralding a dreadful crime – before swiftly travelling back in time in order to start at the beginning, following the chain of events that each led to this tragic conclusion. Anna and her friends were on spring break in Aruba – spoiled, rich untouchable teens, seemingly immune to life’s troubles. Only death couldn’t be swiped away by a credit card and when one of them gets heinously murdered for unknown but likely unsavory reasons, Anna finds herself trapped in a foreign country where everyone, including her friends and family, are doubting her innocence and a detective seems to have settled into a deep-rooted single-mindedness to prove her guiltiness.
As the chilling investigation progresses, long-repressed secrets and rumors clamor for air, and day by day, the skeletons in the closet begin to tumble out. It becomes quickly apparent in a series of whiplash reversals and stunning reveals that these characters, like the book they’re in, aren’t what we thought they were: their whole personalities are crime scenes where evidence of their true selves has been hastily hidden – except that nothing really stays concealed forever.
Though Dangerous Girls is based on a relatively familiar premise, that of the murder of a loved one, it takes the form of a thoroughbred thriller about the nature of identity and the terrible secrets that can survive and thrive in even the most intimate relationships. It’s a structurally brilliant novel, moving back and forth across timelines to reveal each character’s respective exhilaration and anguish but holding the ultimate revelations back until just the right time. The pacing is impeccable, with urgency increasing to an almost breathless point as Anna is faced with the possibility of being prosecuted for a crime she hasn’t committed.
This is a craftily built procedural thriller that sports one hell of a twist. I can’t say any more about the plot without giving away too much – anathema to us readers – but it is safe to say you will be left absolutely throttling you brain to try and figure out how the hell the story is going to end, right up to the book’s final climactic scenes. Everything I thought I knew was upended and the story became something far stranger, and more troubling. This wallop of a surprise hit me clear out of the blue when I read the ending. I was the emotional equivalent of Steve Harrington from Stranger Things waking up from unconsciousness in the back of a car with four children, of which one is illegally driving the car.
Dangerous girls may begin as a whodunit, but by the end it will have you wondering whether there’s any such thing as a who at all. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself in a bruised funk for a few days after, rapt and emotionally spent. Because cool as this book is, it’s twice as cruel.