“The Good Girls” by Claire Eliza Bartlett ended up becoming a surprising read. The new YA mysteries that have been coming out this year tend to be hit or miss, but this book was beautifully done. The beginning of the novel starts off with a missing girl who is presumed dead, named Emma Baines. She was seen as a “golden girl” by her community and so the rush to find her killer is high. At the top of the suspect list are three girls: the cheerleader, the trouble maker, and the overachiever.
While, at the surface, this book seems to be about solving a murder, it actually dives into some pretty deep conversations about how girls are viewed in society.
Claude, the trouble maker, also can be classified by a single word: slut. That’s what everyone at her school seems to think just because she is sexually active. All the girls think she’s gross and all the boys think they have a shot to sleep with her, but Claude is actually much more than that. She proves, yet again, that as a girl you are expected to stay pure until marriage yet any man can sleep with whoever he wants.
Avery is the head cheer captain. She seems to have the perfect life, with the perfect parents, and the perfect boyfriend. However, her life is rougher than what her family lets on. Her mother measures her constantly and puts her on diets if she goes even a few pounds over what her mom determines a “good weight”. Avery also identifies as bisexual, which her parents do not accept, so she is expected to flaunt her relationship with her boyfriend is order to make it clear that she is into boys.
Gwen, the overachiever, is the one that struggles the most. Five years before Emma disappeared, Gwen’s sister was killed in the same area. It was ruled a suicide, but her family knows that it was a murder. Gwen’s family is incredibly poor so she needed a scholarship in order to go to college. Emma was also going towards the same scholarship which threw major suspicion onto Gwen.
The twists and turns this book has were well done and kept me guessing until the end. In the beginning it seems that these four girls have no connection, but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that they all have something in common. I would highly recommend this book if you like mysteries that keep you guessing or books about girls fighting to be believed. TW: This book does discuss sexual assault.