Once again, I got cocky with my reading. I posted my review of My Sister, The Serial Killer on Monday thinking that I’d have no trouble finishing the book that I was currently reading. Cut to tonight and I’m madly trying to finish this novel so I can get this post written. I’m not sure why I picked up this book. It’s a YA crime thriller and I don’t exactly have a great history with them. I’m still haunted by One Of Us Is Lying and it’s been ages. But I found a copy of this for £3.99 and I was feeling reckless. What could go wrong? I guess it also spoke to me on a personal level. For my A-Level history coursework, I had set out to try and solve the murder of Thomas Becket. Yep, 17-year-old me had decided that I had what it took to decide who, other than the king, had organised the murder the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was an idiot and quickly realised that it was a stupid idea. I still wrote about it but in a much more vague and analytical way. It wasn’t my best work. I’m not a great historian. But, I at least had a connection to the main character in this book. Even though she would surely succeed where I failed.
YA novels are obsessed with high achievers. Every YA novel I’ve read seems to be centred around a teenager who is a genius, super confident, and has an incredibly active social life. I’m not saying that those kid of teenagers don’t exist but they aren’t as frequent as YA authors would have us believe. Pippa Fitz-Amobi is the very definition of brilliance. She has a happy family life, loads of friends, and is a shoo-in to get a place at Cambridge following her A-Levels. For her final year, she has decided to take on the extra challenge of an Extended Project Qualification. And, because she is a precocious little so and so, Pippa has decided to solve a murder. Why? Because she has a feeling.
5 years ago, the town of Little Kilton was shocked when Andie Bell, a teenage girl, was murdered. Her murder was pinned on her boyfriend, Sal Singh after he committed suicide days after Andie’s disappearance. Pippa doesn’t believe it so, after telling her teacher that she is investigating the role that the media played in the case, Pippa starts trying to work out if Sal was actually guilty. She questions all of the key players in the case and quickly starts to uncover holes in the story. The deeper she gets into the case the more steadfast she is that she is right. But, with a mystery figure sending her death threats, how long can Pippa keep looking into Andie Bell’s death?
The problem with contemporary crime fiction is that writers are going further and further to try and confuse their readers. They are adding more red herrings and tying too many knots in the hope that the truth will remain hidden under a massive pile of fish and ropes. In my opinion, it’s having the opposite effect. The more potential suspects a writer throws into the mix the less I believe them. It’s always best to look at who the author isn’t focusing on. When I read One Of Us Is Lying (one of the worst novels I’ve ever read), I figured out who the killer was by the end of the first page. I wasn’t quite as quick this time but I’d got the killer sussed pretty quickly.
Holly Jackson tried to be too clever and introduced us to a cavalcade of dodgy sorts. The type of cliched, bad guys who wouldn’t have thought twice about killing a young blonde. It’s too much. Most of the people we are introduced to in this novel are one-dimensional and basic. Even the main character isn’t really developed. She’s a hard-working genius and that’s pretty much it. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder is a book that places so much importance on the narrative that it forgets everything else. Which makes it even more of a shame that the story is so disappointing. Disappointing and really unrealistic. I spent most of this novel just thinking “there is no way this would ever happen”.
Which is my main problem with the book and why I found it so hard to get through. It’s so difficult to go along with a narrative that seems so far removed from reality. This is such a perfect fantasy reality where a 17-year old girl can solve a murder through an awful lot of coincidences. This is a YA book that tells us a clever teenager has the necessary skills and resources to solve a murder the police had already investigated. That so many strangers and people involved would happily talk to her and give her personal information. It just feels so nonsensical. And it doesn’t help that, as in all YA novels, the characters don’t speak like real people.
I guess this book wasn’t that bad but I just found it all very tame, a little boring, and kind of annoying. The pace was weird, sometimes too fast and others too slow, and I didn’t like the way it switched between first and third person. I don’t think it added anything to the book. For one thing, Pippa’s entry logs were repetitive and just recapped what we’d just read. This book should be half the size. And it made the timeline all the more complicated. There seemed to be massive jumps in time that weren’t signposted well enough. And the ending isn’t satisfying in the slightest. Not only was it obvious but it wasn’t even well done. Jackson threw in one more curveball right at the end but it just missed the target.
This is a book that didn’t take any risks whatsoever and never really posed much of a threat. It tried to skirt with darkness but there aren’t enough death threats in the world to make this seem dangerous. It just gave the impression of children playing at being detectives. It’s a smug and unrealistic tale that is written so simplistically it doesn’t fit together. And, though it likes to think it’s making a social statement, it’s just very trite. There are points here about racism, which should be commended. However, the book handles them with the smug satisfaction of a person who once liked a post featuring the hashtag Black Lives Matters and thinks they’ve made the world a better place. It’s good in theory but essentially meaningless.
5 thoughts on “Book Review – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson”
Great review! The points you made regarding the way YA novels are written (unrealistic plots and the way characters are portrayed) are the reasons why I have a hard time reading this genre. I try, but quickly get frustrated and end up giving up.
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Thank you! Always good to know there’s something useful amongst the waffle! And you sound similar to me. I always struggle with YA fiction. It takes a lot for me to get through them. So I normally avoid them.
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