Publication: May 31st 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pages: 336 pages
Source: ARC from Goodreads Giveaway (Thanks Goodreads and Penguin Random House!)
Genre: YA, Fiction, Mystery, Psychological, Thriller, Detective, Contemporary
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤
It’s hard to know where to begin with this review without giving too much away about the story.
In it’s simplest terms, Beware That Girl is a book about Kate O’Brien, a scholarship kid and liar, who befriends the rich and beautiful Olivia Sumner, so that she can better her life and get into her dream school: Yale. But Kate’s plans are in trouble when Mark Redkin joins the staff at Waverly and charms the other faculty and students, most troubling being Olivia.
Toten is an amazing writer, and I’m glad I got the chance to read more work by a Canadian author I haven’t heard from before. Because she’s Canadian, I did wonder why the story was set in New York City instead of Toronto, where Toten is from. While Toronto and New York City obviously aren’t the same place, they share many similarities. But that would just bring up a long analysis on my part about why more Canadian authors don’t set their works in Canada, so I’ll shelve that for a later blog post.
While I enjoyed the writing overall, some parts were a bit ridiculous. The many paragraphs dedicated to Mark’s “masculinity” and “manliness” were cringe-worthy and left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know anyone who thinks of men (or anyone) in those terms, it just didn’t seem realistic.
I enjoyed the development of Kate’s character and the relationship between Kate and Olivia. It seemed realistic and was unlike most friendships in YA novels. It was a bit odd that Toten chose to write Kate’s chapters in first person and Olivia’s in third, as well as the Kate and Olivia chapters in third and I’m not sure why she chose to do that. While I wasn’t a huge fan with how the characters and the story were set up in the beginning of the book, the development of the relationship between Olivia and Kate seemed to solidify the story and make it stronger later on.
Mark was one of the characters I hated. I seem to have a theme of reading books with annoying/disgusting male characters that I hate. Mark was creepy from the start and I felt his villainy was sometimes over the top. I also don’t understand how none of the other faculty at Waverly could be that charmed by him and not see him being creepy with the students. The scenes between him and Olivia were some of the most unsettling and cringe-worthy I’ve ever read, with one such memorable line being “He kissed her eyes.” That’s just disgusting.
I also wasn’t crazy about Johnny. He didn’t seem to have a real point in the story, and I didn’t like that he tricked Kate into going out to coffee with him after she said no. When a girl says no she doesn’t want to go out to coffee with you that doesn’t mean you ask her boss if she can get off work for a bit to go for coffee with you. This also holds true that when said girl says she needs your help looking up a strange, perverted teacher and his victims on an online police database, you don’t ask her to kiss you in repayment.
Overall, Beware That Girl did feel like Gone Girl to me. That’s not to say this book is Gone Girl, it’s far from it. But for most YA thrillers that I’ve read, this is one of the few in which I became addicted to the story. It had a similar feeling darkness, thrill, and secrets that I wasn’t expecting in a YA novel. The shock was in no ways as great as Gone Girl (but can anyone really achieve that?) and I didn’t enjoy it as much as Gone Girl, but I did enjoy it much more than The Girl on the Train (which I hated).
Beware That Girl is an incredibly unique YA novel that stands out from it’s genre. I look forward to reading more from Toten in the future.
I received an advance reader’s copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.