Published by Minotaur Books (11th January 2022)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
When Chloe was twelve, her summer was spent in fear. Six teenage girls went missing, their bodies never found. By the end of the summer, her father had been arrested as a serial killer, and put in jail. Her family was then left trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Twenty years later, Chloe is now a psychologist living in Baton Rouge and preparing for her upcoming wedding to fiancé Daniel. She still deals with the fallout from her childhood, but feels like she’s really making headway in her life. Then it starts again. Teenage girls begin to go missing in Baton Rouge, and she is forced to relive that awful summer once more. Is she just experiencing normal paranoia after what she went through, or are the similarities she’s seeing really there?
I was super excited to read this one. I’d been seeing it all over bookstagram, so yes, this is yet another book that bookstagram made me buy. I have a weird fascination with serial killers, as I know a lot of people do. What makes them tick, why do they do the things that they do, and how is their mind different from ours. I knew I wouldn’t get any of these answers in this book, but I was keen to read it just the same.
The story is told through two alternating timelines almost. We follow Chloe at twelve years old in the summer where her life changed drastically. We get to experience her interactions with one of the missing girls from her youth and see parts of her life as a child around the time her father was arrested. Then we follow her through the present, as a thirty two year old psychologist who is still trying to deal with the things that happened twenty years ago, while also trying to move on with her life. The thing is, when teenage girls begin to go missing again, girls who she was somehow connected to, she starts to see similarities between the current missing girls and those that disappeared twenty years ago. I found that this was a brilliant line to take as it introduced a sort of unreliable MC through the story. Chloe is dealing, or not dealing, with things, she self medicates even though she knows that it’s illegal and wrong, and she tries to deal with everything on her own. I found that at times I couldn’t completely trust what she was seeing or thinking because most of the time she was a in a haze of alcohol or prescription drugs, not in a really off putting way, but in a way that really illustrated that this woman needs help. There were times that Chloe couldn’t even trust herself. I will admit, I had picked the culprit from virtually the beginning, through out the rest of the story, there were times when I doubted my choice, so Willingham did a good job at trying to pull the wool over my eyes, but in the end, I did have it right. This was a teeny bit disappointing, but honestly, it was such a great read and I really enjoyed the ride, so it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
The characters were well written and had larger than life personalities that really jumped off the page. I found them to be incredibly believable and I think Willingham did a great job at illustrating the difficulties of trauma, no matter how much time has past. I really enjoyed Chloe’s character, even though I wanted to throttle her at times for the decisions she was making, I know that these decisions were made because she was struggling so badly with her past and the present situation. I really enjoyed Daniel’s character, and Cooper was written wonderfully. Even though we didn’t see too much of Cooper, I think it was great to see how the two siblings were affected by what happened twenty years ago. I really loved the way that Willingham was able to sow distrust for everyone in her writing, it made me question everything.
The story was well thought out and well written, though as said above, I did pick the culprit from virtually the first meeting, so very early on in the book. Still, this didn’t detract from what a page turning story this was. There’s some things that I wish we had have gotten to see, I wanted Chloe to confront her father in prison, but we didn’t get to see that, and I was hoping for a bit of something more in the end, but I’m happy enough with where things were left. This story kept me super engaged and did have me questioning a lot of things which is great. It kept me thinking.
All in all, this was a fantastic debut novel and I am excited for what Willingham puts out next! If you’re intrigued by serial killers, unreliable narrators and a real page turner, give this one a go!
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