Review Blog

Oct 08 2013

Pretty girl by J. C. Burke

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Random House Australia, 2013. ISBN 9781741663136.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Sarah, Tallulah, Paige and Jess were inseparable friends at boarding school who dreamed of living in the same college residency when at university. However, once attained, this dream has turned into a nightmare: first Paige was hospitalised with a serious head injury after a mysterious fall into the college swimming pool then Jess died after falling off the laundry roof. What has gone so terribly, terribly wrong? With this mystery to be solved, readers are quickly hooked, especially as it appears that the nightmare may not yet be over.
The story is told in alternating chapters by Sarah (donned 'Sarah the Sensible' by her friends) and Paige (donned 'Paige the Brave'). Sarah is feeling guilty because she witnessed something when she rescued Paige from the swimming pool, and as a law student she knows she should have told the police, every sensible bone in her body tells her so. Unhappy in her guilt and increasingly unhappy in her relationship with her boyfriend, Sarah is ready prey for the handsome and mysterious young man she meets in the laundry, the one who calls her a 'pretty girl'. Meanwhile, Paige is in rehab, trying to recover her memory of the days that led up to her accident and her relationships with two key men in her life: Harry and Jack.
Whilst Paige is in rehab, she and Sarah can't share their stories and learn from each other so the reader is in a better position to join the dots and uncover the mystery well before the girls themselves. However, rather than detracting from the story, this framework only adds further tension to J.C. Burke's tale: what begins as an intriguing read will become a compelling one. It is rather like watching a horror movie and wanting to scream to the characters 'No . . . don't do that' knowing full well they can't hear you. The last few chapters of the novel will simply fly by!
This is a gripping psychological drama, and a rather cautionary tale, that older girls are sure to enjoy. It also shows the depth of talent in author, J. C. Burke who constantly surprises with her themes, setting and genre.
Deborah Marshall

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