The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel: Review

In this, the age of American Horror StoryDexter and Game of Thrones entertainment channels are able to (and often do) talk about increasingly shocking ideas. For some reason many of us are a little dark too and are compelled to explore this kind of narrative – The Roanoke Girls is one of these new age taboo shakers and I was hooked on this heartbreaking tale from cover to cover.


Title: The Roanoke Girls

Author: Amy Engel

Publication date: August 1st 2017

Pages: 288

Blurb: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.


Firstly, a very big thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Intrigue and Mystery run thick in this unique and complex novel, once I was in it I had to finish it.

It’s set in the Osage flats in Kansas but the perspective shifts (between ‘then’, ‘now’, and various chapters from the perspective of absent characters) to inform the reader and help explore the secrets of the Roanoke family. The timeframe adjustments move flawlessly and our story moves at a satisfying pace; I didn’t feel lost reading because it was so naturally paced and fluid. By playing with time Engel gives us the privilege of truly understanding characters we might otherwise get just a vague understanding of. I’d have loved a few more references to The Roanoke Colony but the carvings and the intrigue were fabulous by themselves.

In terms of content and themes It definitely made me think of Lolita; it’s provocative and twisted but still, somehow, utterly captivating. I don’t know how I’d describe it genre wise but it certainly plays with sexuality and morality in a way that isn’t forced or incredibly intense; it simply is. I feel like I’m a despicable human for loving this book but what the heck? I guess the crown fits.

Flawed characters feature heavily throughout and are the focal point of the book’s message; it invites you to question differing levels of morality whilst maintaining a compelling narrative. It’s about perspective on morality but also uses clever imagery and symbolism to create not only a great story, but a fascinating dialogue on so many aspects of life. The themes of suffering, and small time drama with big time secrets really create a story in which we question our own initial responses: actions that seem cruel at first may be an expression of a far worse internal struggle.

“To Sarah, Allegra is simply a bitch…not one single second of Allegra’s life was easy. I know the agony she lived with every day. And I understand how sometimes you have to pass the pain around in order to survive it.”

There’s power not only in the content but in the way it it written too. This book was enticing and addictive, dark and gritty, it was so much better than I could’ve anticipated. Engel’s writing is gorgeous and I thoroughly enjoyed her literary style; what she did in 288 pages was more than some can achieve in 1000. I’d very much recommend reading it.


 4 out of 5

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If you liked All Things New, try The Vegetarian


  – Cat –

All Things New by Lauren Miller: Review

All Things New is a story all readers of YA fiction will be ready and raring to read this August and it does not disappoint. It’s a charming page turner with a poignant message and a cute little love story to boot – pick it up August 1st.


 Title: All Things New

Author: Lauren Miller

Publication date: August 1st 2017

Pages:

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn’t help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa can no longer pretend that she’s okay–now she looks as shattered as she feels. 

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, but her anxiety only gets worse in the wake of the accident. That is, until she meets Marshall, a boy with a heart defect whose kindness and generous spirit slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world–a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.


Firstly, a very big thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

And, I’ll start at the beginning, on opening the first page. This book was incredibly easy to get into; Lauren Miller really understands the importance of a fierce opening. We are instantly drawn into Jessa’s life: a lonely LA adolescence tainted by the anxiety she hides from the world. The event that changes everything is described in a way that commands the reader to keep going and follow Jessa on her recovery journey. It’s a recovery not just from the accident but from a lie she’s been living and truths she’s been constantly overlooking.

I’m a wee bit biased about this book because I found so very much of it so easy to relate to; Jessa is a likeable underdog and represents so much – most importantly she is a vessel for exploring mental health. Miller literally takes that slogan “what if we treated all illness like it was physical” and plays about with it on the page in this gorgeous little novel. The way she plays with truth using medical fact is thoroughly engaging and keeps the message upfront and easy to comprehend.

The only thing I would potentially criticise is that I certainly could have read more of it. The narrative seemed to end quite suddenly given the time Miller took to build the story’s concepts and I think there was definitely more story left to tell. That being said, forcing a story beyond its natural length is a sure way to ruin a book so perhaps it was just right left where it was. I’ve seen it compared to The Fault in Our Stars and other popular YA books but felt it more in the region of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel myself. Overall I found it to be an enjoyable and accomplished YA novel with some interesting themes.

I haven’t read Parallel or Free to Fall, Miller’s other books, but if they’re anything like this I’m sure to find time for them. I’d dub this a worthwhile read for any YA reader.


 3 out of 5

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If you liked All Things New, try Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index.


  – Cat –