“Secrets of Southern Girls” by Haley Harrigan #BookReview

southern girls

Adult psychological thriller

Okay, so to start off… This book was supposed to be a psychological thriller but it didn’t really read like one. It felt more contemporary, not nearly gripping enough to be labeled a psychological thriller, in my opinion. The story doesn’t get its legs until halfway through the book, when things finally start to get interesting. Before that, there was just too much build-up, too many words, too many goings-on that while relevant to the plot, weren’t exactly riveting. One good thing about this book is how immersive the writing is. It’s a testament to it that I continued reading even though I wasn’t exactly hooked.

The book is about two girls, one dead girl called Reba whom we get to know through the pages of a long-lost and found diary, and another girl called Julie, the main character, who was Reba’s best friend. Julie thinks she is somehow responsible for Reba’s death, which is why she decides to go back to her hometown in the south to read this diary and figure things out for herself.

In terms of plot, that’s pretty much all that happens. Julie goes back to her hometown, reads the diary, and learns the truth about what really happened with her best friend all those years ago and how it affected the rest of the characters. That’s it. And even this didn’t feel that convincing… the diary didn’t read like a normal diary, but rather like a flashback, with dialogue quotes and all, which isn’t how people write diaries.

The use of the diary within the story felt like a plot device, like something artificial just to take the reader back in time instead of an actual diary. The fact that it didn’t read like a real diary dimished the substance of the story for me, because it served as a clutch for the writer to get things out into the open in the most direct way possible instead of a tool to make the story even more mysterious. But there was no mystery, no revelation, everything was contained in the “flashback” diary and all characters had to do was read it. Things should have gotten resolved in the present time somehow, not through the use of “flashbacks”.

The book also felt more like a lifetime movie than a psychological thriller. It was too fluffy at times, and even after the 50% mark when the story finally got grittier, it wasn’t enough to make up for everything else it lacked. Granted, I was hooked when the characters started to finally display their darkness. This was probably the best part of the book and what made it stand on its own two legs, but the other half of the book just wasn’t interesting enough and the whole artifice of the diary as a story clutch was disappointing. The cliffhanger the story ends on was also not very strong.

The good thing is that it’s such a character-centered book that I was able to power through it and finish reading it quickly.

Rating: **

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