Review of "The Lives Of Desperate Girls"

by Ari Augustine Posted August 25, 2017 in Book Reviews, Review Archives / 1 Comment

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Title: The Lives of Desperate Girls
Author: MacKenzie Commons
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 304 pages
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
My Rating: ♥♥
Overview (Goodreads): One small, northern community. Two girls gone — one missing, the other dead. A riveting coming-of-age debut young adult novel for fans of Everything I Never Told You and All the Bright Places.
Sixteen-year-old Helen Commanda is found dead just outside Thunder Creek, Ontario. Her murder goes unremarked, except for the fact that it may shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is beautiful, rich and white. Helen is plain, and from the reservation. They had nothing in common except that they were teenage girls from an unforgiving small town. Only Chloe’s best friend Jenny Parker knows exactly how unforgiving, but she’s keeping some dangerous secrets of her own.
Jenny begins looking for answers about Helen’s life and death, trying to understand larger questions about her town and her best friend. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?


My review:
I wanted to like this book but I couldn’t. Told in the first-person point of view of Jenny, I honestly didn’t feel I was seeing through the eyes of a teenager.
She was too calm, too collected, and far too unemotional considering how “normal” she’s portrayed. She’s the typical “nothing’s-special-super-bland” teenager who pales in comparison to her more lively, gorgeous friend Chloe. Even when Chloe is missing or as she discusses events happening around her, she states it without emotion and it’s hard to imagine Chloe’s disappearance has upset her at all.
In short, she’s a flat cardboard character that I couldn’t care for. Problem is, almost all the characters in the story are like this. Sure, there are interesting aspects of the story such as the detailed descriptions. There are hidden political messages (the dead Native American girl takes backseat to the possibly dead white rich girl) but all the messages are lost in this world of stereotypical characters who fail to make me care about the story – or them.
I’ll admit the romance is not the worst I’ve read but it’s up there. I couldn’t understand how Jenny and Tom “worked”. I couldn’t understand how Jenny, with one girl found dead and her best friend still missing, could crawl into a stranger’s car.  Their relationship is the same “good girl meets bad boy” cliche we’ve read a million times before except that it makes even less sense. In fact, I think Bella and Edward in Twilight had more in common.
Why did I want to like this story? Because the blurb makes it sound like an awesome Nancy Drew or Pretty Little Liars kind of story.  I wanted a good mystery, an epic female character who went on the hunt to find her friend. Instead, you get Jenny, an average girl who deliberately lies to police, hides her friend’s tragic experiences, and isn’t, in my opinion, a good friend.
The writing is decent but ultimately, all the potential falls flat on its face because the characters are apathetic, unrealistic, and lack action.

**This book was kindly provided to me by Penguin Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

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