Nice Girls

Morrow. Sept. 2021. 320p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9780063027558.
Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive meets Cruel Summer in this engaging thriller. In high school, Mary seemed destined for great things. Dubbed “Ivy League Mary” for her admission to Cornell, she left her small town and all the bullies behind for a brighter future. But as a college senior, she is forced from Cornell in disgrace. With no other option, she returns to her hometown and does her best to stay under the radar. She finds a minimum wage job and connects with the townies who, unlike her, never had reason or means to leave town. Then her former friend, beautiful Instagram influencer Olivia, goes missing. What is first assumed to be a publicity stunt turns more serious when human remains are discovered. Mary becomes distracted with the details of why she had to leave Cornell, as well as the pain of bullying that led her to leave her hometown to begin with. What all these tangents have in common is the shared thread of female rage, and how it can curdle and become stifled in a world that won’t allow it. Racial issues are also touched upon when the disappearance of DeMaria, a woman of color, is treated with less care by police and townfolk than the white Olivia. Mary and most characters, other than DeMaria and Mary’s Vietnamese friend Madison, are assumed white.
VERDICT The inclusion of high school flashbacks, along with the experiences of college-age characters, are likely to appeal to older teens who enjoy thrillers. A page-turning, multifaceted mystery with emotional depth and a thrilling conclusion.

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