|Book Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.
As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…
Lately, I was in the mood for some good thrillers. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this review by Symone @ Symone Books where she recommended Dangerous Girls. It wasn’t the first time I heard about the book, but apparently I am the type of person who easily swayed by good recommendation because I bought it on impulse after reading Symone’s review (either that or it’s because she wrote very persuasive review, or maybe a bit of both).
Having read several great thrillers throughout 2015 (thank you Gillian Flynn), I was sort of prepared to be let down. I was not. Dangerous Girls is gritty, full of suspense, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the story to make it “more appropriate for teenagers.” Before I dived in, I need to mention that this book includes drinking, drugs, sex, and profanities. Oh and murder.
Dangerous Girls started out simple enough. A group of friends went to Aruba for spring break. There, they spent their time partying, drinking, and having the best time of their life. Until one of them found murdered in her room. Our MC, Anna, found herself as a suspect and she was arrested and had to spend months in prison while awaiting for the verdict.
Now, for those of you who live in a country where criminal cases go to jury trials, you might be not familiar with the judge trial system. I am by no means a law expert, but this book shows us how is it like to be trapped in a foreign country where the legal system is totally different than what you used to. Strange as it was, the difference in legal system, more than language or cultural difference, seemed to be the one that gave the “trapped in foreign country” vibe. Anna felt like she was being treated as a scapegoat because she was a foreigner. Her frustration was most evident during the trials when she realized that a single judge will decide her fate.
The narrative went back and forth between the current murder investigation and the past when Anna met Elise, became her best friend, and the days leading to Elise death. I could see why Haas decided to weave it that way, because in this book, the past is about as important, if not more, than the current events. At its essence, this book is more about psychology and human relationships than it is about murder investigation. We were left blind, in prison, with Anna while the world kept going and her friends went back to live their life.
There are some strange things that felt a bit like happenstance and other elements that felt forcefully added to advance the plot. However, those are minor stuff that I was able to shrug off because I was too busy tapping my phone to read the next page.
Anna is not a likeable narrator. There, I said it. She did, however, tell a very compelling story. It’s like when you were at the party and one of your classmate that you don’t like was sitting there telling a story. And you came anyway because she always tells such a good story. It is weird because I do sympathize with her situation, but not with her.
The book is not without its limitations, mainly in terms of secondary characters. It is partly because we only got one POV and Anna isn’t really the type of person who looked beneath people’s exterior. Apart from Anna and Elise, we don’t really get to know anyone, even her friends. We are told that Mel is whiny and Chelsea is uptight, but they aren’t actually given any real personality. And what about AK or Max? I barely know anything about them. We were only shown the important bits that related to the case, not the parts that make these characters real. This is perhaps a compromise the author has chosen to take because she wanted to dig deeper into Anna’s mind, but at the end of the day, I knew who the murderer is long before the book ends because of this sort of cherry-picking. I’m definitely not saying that you should fill your book with red herring though.
I have been guilty of rating a book, especially a murder mystery, based on whether or not I could guess the murderer. If it’s too easy, I will dock half a star, if you manage to fool me, I give you an extra half-star. It’s sort of stupid, but I do feel my enjoyment of a crime mystery decreases if it’s not a mystery at all. However, I will refrain from doing that here, mainly because Dangerous Girls felt more like psychological thriller than murder mystery, and partly because I try to be objective (the keyword here is try).
Am I allowed to say that I enjoy a book about murder and debauchery? Because yes, I really enjoyed Dangerous Girls. So what if it’s not the most mind-blowing thing ever? It’s a ride you’d want to hop on all the same.
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Let me know if you have read Dangerous Girls or if it’s on your TBR. If you have read it, do you like the book?
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