Title: The Hanging Girl
Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: October 3rd from HMH Teen
Format: Library E book
Synopsis: Skye Thorn uses tarot cards to read people. When a classmate disappears, she uses her fake psychic abilities to help the police find the girl. But as things start to unravel, Skye realizes that she’s in way over her head.
Plot: I found about 70% of this plot to be engaging, mysterious and well planned out. The author does a good job at throwing you off with who the real perpetrator is. Skye is being thrown left and right as she tries to figure out not only the kidnapping, but other things she’s getting involved with. One plot twist did kick things up a notch as the pursuit for truth heightens after a character is murdered. However, the ending completely ruined the novel for me. Skye is going one direction the whole time and at the end, the author makes her go the other way! She wants the truth to get out and make up for her mistakes, but the ending makes her turn the other cheek and not even care. Once she knows the truth, she thinks for one second about spilling everything and doing the right thing. Guess what? That doesn’t happen. I feel like the way the story ended made everything that had previously happened not even matter.
Characters: Skye as a protagonist was well done in the beginning. She wants to get out of her small town, but the poverty she and her mom live in doesn’t give her any good opportunities. So she makes a decision out of desperation, which does happen when someone feels like they’re out of options. But when that situation gets out of control, she quickly realizes something is wrong and does her best to help fix it. She’s afraid of getting in trouble, but she also wants the truth to get out. I understood why she made that decision, doesn’t trust some people, tries to keep her secret safe, etc. She was a decent person who got in with the wrong people. But besides her (until the end) and her best friend Drew, everyone else was unlikable and not shown as redeemable. From the judge, her mother, a male side character and even the person Skye got involved with was either just plain awful, deceitful or just morally gray and that was all to them. I feel like Skye’s mother didn’t get enough development to care about her. Then, by the end, the only good person was Drew. Everyone else got what they wanted, even if it wasn’t right. So, most of the characters didn’t click with me.
Writing: Eileen Cook is a great writer. There were a few passages where she describes little scenes of life and they were not only well written, but very relatable and I felt like the small town was written really well. Skye’s apartment felt cheap, lived in and also empty of a bright future. The way her high school classmates act are how I would see a small town high school; they don’t trust certain people and get excited when a small event happens. Here’s some quotes that shows her good writing:
“Destiny is like a boulder. Bulky and hard to move. It’s easier to leave it alone than try to change it. But that never kept anyone from trying. Trust me: I’m a professional.” (opening first lines, Chapter 1)
“The cafeteria wasn’t an ideal place for a reading. It was hard to feel a connection to something otherworldly when the smell of greasy industrial sloppy joes and over boiled canned corn hung like a cloud in the air.” (pg. 2, Chapter 1)
“My stomach rumbled. Even with the ten bucks, I shouldn’t make a Subway run. I was still short of my goal. I should have saved the money, but it wasn’t like ten bucks was going to make a huge difference. Screw it. I could already smell that fresh-baked bread.” (Chapter 1, 4% mark)
Predictability: Since this is a mystery/thriller, readers do wonder how highly predictable this book is. I don’t read this genre very much (I’ve only read 2 other books similar this book this year) and I think it’s not very predictable. There’s one twist that I did see coming, but you can see it if you’re paying attention. Most of the small clues to lead to the full truth, I feel like, is hidden in the dialogue and small passages of prose. If you read this type of genre a lot, I don’t think this book will surprise you very much. But since I’m new to this genre, I think it’s 4.5/10 of how predictable it was.
Cons: The reasons why I rated this book low were for a couple reasons: the negative message in the ending, how the main character unrealistically changed motivations at the end, slow pacing and also the jab at politics and a fast food company. I personally don’t like it when authors insert personal jabs at certain subjects, political parties and other subjects of life. If they want to say that stuff on social media, it’s their choice. But the jabs they put in this book do not relate to the book at all and had no place being there. If you’re curious about what I mean, here’s the passage I found:
“To be honest, I most of the time I’d prefer Chick-fil-A.”
“You shouldn’t eat there,” I started to say.
“I know, they’re racist. You tell me that all the time.”
“Homophobic,” I said. “That’s just as bad.”
“Could be, but they make a good sandwich.” (at the 87% mark, chapter 48)
I feel like this passage had no purpose in the book and it felt like a mean jab at a company for no reason. I have no idea if these claims are true, but I don’t feel like they need to be in a novel where it’s not the subject. I also feel like the ending shows a negative role model/image to young readers.
**Slight Spoilers Ahead**
Basically, Skye learns who is really responsible for a murder that takes place. At the end, she doesn’t tell the police and turn this person in! She thinks about it right when she finds out, but because that person thinks they had good intentions for doing it, Skye then thinks it’s ok! So she goes out of state, changes her name and lives her life without letting the actual truth get out and also be accountable for what she did get involved in. She was trying to do the right thing for so long, but then decides not to? That didn’t make sense to me. There is money involved at the end, and I think parents need to be aware that Skye is not a positive role model for younger readers. Money doesn’t make you happy and you always need to speak the truth even if you’re scared to. This character doesn’t do that and it was disappointing to see her abandon her cause.
Overall: If you liked this author’s debut YA novel With Malice and you want to try this, then definitely try this book. But go in knowing that this is a typical thriller where practically no one is a good person and that the ending will not satisfy some readers. I like seeing characters being shown as redeemable despite having flaws and making mistakes. I don’t like the one dimensional “everyone is awful” in mystery/thrillers. It’s a personal preference. I personally don’t recommend this book, but if you want to try it, I would recommend getting it from the library.
Have you read this book? Did you think it was predictable? Did you like the ending? Do you agree or disagree with this review?