All the Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on August 24, 2017 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, crime, suspense
Format & Pages: e-book, 437
Find on Goodreads
Purchase at Amazon
“Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.”
Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.
Then Summer goes missing.
Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.
But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
A gripping crime novel with a huge heart, this is the second novel from the exceptionally talented Chris Whitaker.
I had very mixed feelings about this book. From the first sentence straight through until the end, I felt such a push and pull between how I felt about it. Let’s just dig in, shall we?
All the Wicked Girls is set in the small town of Grace, Alabama. On the one hand, Whitaker immediately immerses you into the story using dialect and tone to convey the scene and show an atmosphere of deterioration and darkness. On the other hand, there is so much dialect that I personally found it hard to connect. It took me a few chapters to start to get the flow and I found myself rereading certain passages several times in order to get the gist.
The story was told mostly through the perspectives of Summer leading up to her disappearance and her sister, Raine, as she is looking for Summer afterwards, and a few other characters as well. On the one hand, Whitaker’s characterization here is wonderful and each person felt real and unique and complex. On the other hand, the points of view shift so quickly and without warning – sometimes mid-chapter – that I found it to be quite jarring.
From the tragic event that was the catalyst for the start of the story to the small town politics to the multiple strands that come together to form a larger picture, this novel decidedly gave me Under the Dome vibes. In addition, there were a lot of religious overtones and so much symbolism! Part of me would love to give this a reread to study these pieces, but given the above, that most likely won’t happen. And even though there was a sense of closure at the end, I did want some more clarity on certain storylines that were left quite open.
Although the writing style in All the Wicked Girls wasn’t for me, there is definitely an audience for this book. To be sure, this is a tough read and won’t be for the faint of heart. If you like your crime novels bleak and raw with a side of small town strife, this might be for you. And even though this isn’t horror or science fiction, I strongly feel that anyone who’s a fan of Stephen King’s Under the Dome will like this as well.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.