By Riley Sager
Goodreads Community Rating: 4.18
Genre: Psycho Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: July 3rd 2018
Format Read: Kindle Ebook
Goodreads Summary: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.
Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.
And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.
I’m sure you all heard me raving about Final Girls at the beginning of last year. It was by far one of my top books of the year and it still sticks in my head, which is saying something considering how many psycho thrillers I read. When I heard that Riley Sager was publishing another book, I signed up for as many ARC programs as I could. Then, I got approved via Edelweiss and didn’t check it for… 165 days. So here we are, after it was published, writing a review.
And let me tell you that I loved this book. It had an ending that I didn’t see coming, AT ALL until the grand reveal, but yet somehow managed to tie everything in so perfectly that afterwards I wondered why I didn’t get there on my own. The idea behind the “mystery” was old– missing girls– but this was a fresh take and somehow didn’t feel like I was reading the same thing I’d read a hundred times.
Also– shoutout to Sager for taking a book where he said “The Girls” about 1000 times and somehow not naming it “The Girls”. It’s always nice when I can search the name of a book and not have ten others with the same title pop up.
I know I normally put the plot section after characters, but it’s started to occur to me that that’s a dumb way to do it so I’m testing it out this way to see how it goes.
The book takes place on two timelines, “today” and “fifteen years ago”. 15 years ago is when there was the initial incident that sort of drives the plot– three girls went missing from their summer camp cabins in the middle of the night, and vanished. The fourth girl bunking with them is our main character and the only one in the cabin to have survived. Today, the MC, Emma, goes back to the summer camp for the first time and tries to figure out how her friends disappeared. The alternation works really well because then you can reveal small details at a time and let it take longer for everything to come to light for the reader.
I never felt like Sager was intentionally withholding information from us, either by flipping timelines at a certain point or not letting us tell what Emma is thinking. He managed to write the book openly and let you in on everything adult Emma was feeling and thinking in a way that felt natural.
Pacing was good, although at times I felt it could have benefited from slowing down just a bit and focusing more on emotions than it did. However, it wasn’t like the book was lacking emotion, I just think I prefer a SLightly slower pace.
All of the characters in this book where just the right amount of messed up where you felt like they were worse off than you, but not to the point where they deserved your pity. I’m not sure if that makes sense (or if it makes me a terrible person) but it’s something I can appreciate in a book like this where you’re never sure if half the characters are gonna die.
Emma is 13 years old in the flashbacks and 28 in today’s timeline. In the flashbacks, she’s fairly innocent and likeable and relatable as a sort of coming to age tale. In present day, she’s been through a lot, has mental health issues, and is generally suspicious of everything, but in a way that still makes her super likeable. In general, she’s a friend I’d want to have.
Her flashback friends, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison, are somewhat well developed. Natalie and Allison are side characters, and treated as such. Vivian is emotional and vibrant and sexual and full and whole. But she’s told through the lense of 28 year old Emma, which gives an interesting perspective and allows us to only see the best in Vivian, for the most part.
Present day campers Miranda, Krystal (with a K), and Sasha are very underdeveloped, but that didn’t hurt the story in my opinion. They were mostly stereotypes, but in the context which Emma knew them that made sense. I think if they’d been a little more developed it could have helped the story, but that’s only looking back on it now. While reading, I never felt like character development was an issue.
The rest of the cast felt real and alive and I think Sager did a great job of carrying over people’s teenage personalities to their adult form while still developing them, which is something that’s difficult to accomplish.
Obviously, despite my small issue with character development, I gave this book five stars because I absolutely loved it. It was such a well written mystery, full of twists and surprises that left you constantly guessing. It made for a fun read and I flew through it because I desperately needed to know what had happened to The Girls. If you’re looking for a thriller where you won’t be able to guess the ending (but actually understand how they got there) then this should be your next read.
***Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Edelweiss, Dutton, and Penguin Publishing Group for giving me this opportunity***
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Have you read this book or Final Girls? Which one is better? Will you be adding The Last Time I Lied to your tbr?