Cover Image: The It Girl

The It Girl

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Member Reviews

This is just a trope that keeps on giving, isn't it? It seems like every other book I read from the suspense genre is that of the flashy 'it' girl whose less-than-'it' best friend gets swallowed up by the personality that is the shiny friend. Then she is killed, and the questions start bubbling to the surface. Someone is responsible, but is it the person that was convicted of the crime in the first place? I foundmyself at some point saying out loud "well dang it," as I could see who was the culprit much sooner than the final pages would allow. Ruth Ware just doesn't grip me the same way other writers do. But the ride to the destination was enjoyable all the same.
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A  mystery set at Oxford? Say less! The “it girl” of campus is murdered her first year at school, and 10 years later her friends are still struggling with their pasts. When the man found guilty of the murder dies, Hannah, the It girl’s best friend, realizes the man she convicted of murder may have been innocent all along, and the true murderer may still roam free.
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THE IT GIRL is classic page-turning mystery/thriller set against the pressures, intensity and nuances of academia. I loved this book from the get-go, the social dynamics of a group of college age friends and all the ways we mold and stifle ourselves and envy others.  As the book jumps from adulthood to the days before April's murder, the reader is trying to figure out who is to blame for the death of the wealthy IG sensation, and all the suspicions surround Hannah and Will, since they are now a couple and Will was April's boyfriend at the time of her death. 
Ruth Ware delivers high intensity tensions and lots of fun, twisty surprises from start to finish. 
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I’ve been up and down on Ruth Ware from one book to the next. Her catalogue has ranged from exceptionally fun to nearly unreadable. But with this one, unfortunately, we’ve hit rock bottom.

First, this is not, as it has been labeled, Dark Academia. It is set in part at Oxford University, but there is absolutely nothing academic about it. The college itself doesn’t really figure much into the narrative aside from as a setting in the most literal sense of the word. 

The protagonist is a certain archtype common to domestic thrillers aimed at a female audience for whom I’ll never understand the appeal. This woman has absolutely NO self esteem. She can’t even get a sentence out in a normal social situation. It’s pitiable, certainly, but neither relatable (even for those who have some social anxiety) or likable. 

She’s also a terrible friend, and a colossal idiot. Seriously, how did this dingbat get into Oxford? She can’t put two and two together until she’s been hit over the head with it, and she spends most of the book falsely accusing pretty much every character of being the murderer without any factual checks on what she’s thinking. 

But it’s the one accusation that she makes that WAS right that made this a one star book and not a two-star, dumb but amusing thriller. For the entire narrative, we listen to Hannah bemoan that she has “condemned an innocent man to die in jail.” This is factually untrue (Hannah did not accuse this person, rather, her concrete evidence was used to support the police case against him). But far more importantly, this man was far from innocent. 

Whether he was the murderer or not, a lot of women were safer with this man behind bars. He may not have been April’s killer, but he stalked and menaced multiple women and would have done the same to many more. And that includes the protagonist, who was rightly terrified of him. He sexually assaulted her, menaced her, and stalked her. And yet at the end of the book, Hannah talks about him by saying he was “just awkward and weird.” 

Obviously we don’t want to put people in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, even if they’re guilty of something else. And some of Hannah’s thoughts are consistent with the guilty and shame that plagues sexual assault victims. But the manner in which all of this was presented is absolutely inexcusable. For a female author, it’s downright embarrassing. 

I don’t love this kind of subject matter in a thriller even when it’s handled responsibly because it gives me the icks, but this martyring of a sexual predator to drive plot and characterization is gross and deeply unfair to assault survivors. Women have enough trouble with how they are treated by others and how the world tells them they should feel under circumstances like this. They don’t need that exacerbated by an author’s insensitive and irresponsible decision making. 

TW: sexual assault, stalking, physical assault of a pregnant woman 

Audiobook readers: Obviously I’m not recommending this book at all, but I’m particularly not recommending it in this format. The reader is exceptionally slow (I listen at 2x and still felt like I wanted to tear my hair out at the painfully drawn out overenunciation and absurdly long pauses). The exaggerated tone also didn’t help with unlikability of an already deeply loathsome protagonist.
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