Review: Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

DeadGirlsDontLie

Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. Walker Childrens. 352 pp.

I can’t say that YA murder mystery is a genre I find myself reading all that often. But if the other books in this category are as strong as this one, I may need to change that. Dead Girls Don’t Lie has a title that caught my eye, a plot that hooked me, and subject matter that kept me thinking about it long after the last page.

The book is narrated by Jaycee, a teen girl who had a falling-out with her best friend, Rachel, six months before the start of this story. Now Rachel is dead, brutally murdered, and Jaycee is left wondering whether she really ever knew her friend at all. What sorts of people was Rachel involved with? Did she have a secret life that she couldn’t trust her best friend with? Was she one of the good guys or one of the bad guys?

Jaycee decides to solve the mystery of her friend’s murder, seeking help in places both expected and unexpected. The members of her small farming town are convinced that Rachel’s killing was gang-related, but Jaycee is not so sure. The problem is, she’s young and naive and doesn’t know who to believe. She’s got trust issues in both directions: she trusts too much as well as too little. By the time she puts the pieces together, she needs to act quickly and carefully if she doesn’t want to be the next body to turn up.

I don’t want to say much else, because it’s best to go into this one knowing little. That’s frustrating, because I want to talk about the bigger themes of this book, even deeper than the prevalent questions of friendship and trust. All I’ll say is that this book uncovers many different types of prejudice. Can you see beyond a person’s skin color? How about his or her past? Can you see the person underneath it all? Stereotypes are a problem in Jaycee’s quest, but she doesn’t realize it until it’s almost too late.

Not only is this book a great exploration of social issues; it’s also exciting and ridiculously suspenseful. You know that leg-jiggling thing you do when a book is really intense? (Is that just me? Also, is there an established term for this sort of movement?) Well, I did that for about fifteen pages straight. My husband texted me in the middle of a particularly suspenseful scene and scared the crap out of me;  I was so immersed in what I was reading that the gentle chiming of my phone made me jump far higher than should ever be necessary.

All in all: Worth reading if you like mysteries, suspense, or just a good story about coming of age and figuring out what to think about the world.