The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks
Schwartz & Wade, 2012
When Wendy Geller’s body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,”Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled.” But shy Rain, once Wendy’s best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just “party girl.” As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick’s mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.
When I saw the blurb for this on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued, because I absolutely love crime dramas and mysteries and who-done-its. This book sounded like it was right up my alley. I am happy to say that it didn’t disappoint; this was a truly engrossing read from beginning to end.
I am a big fan of the well-written mystery, and that’s exactly what this was. From the start, I was engrossed in the story, desperate, like Rain, to discover the truth about what happened to Wendy. I also found myself drawn to Rain herself; she is a very real, flawed character, and she was really wonderfully drawn. Rain was born with a cleft palate, and as such, had to undergo years of speech therapy. She doesn’t like to talk, because, during those times when she was taking speech, she was ridiculed by her rich classmates, and still feels that lingering sense of, “I’m going to say this wrong,” every time she goes to open her mouth. But she loved Wendy, and can’t stand to let the version of her that’s being painted in the papers and news stories be the only side of her people see. Rain becomes determined to figure out exactly what happened the night Wendy died, and I really appreciated her unyielding search for the answers.
All of the characters were so wonderfully drawn and fleshed out, even the more secondary ones. I loved how much we learned about Rain and her classmates, their struggles and what made them tick. I especially appreciated the little flashbacks to Wendy and Rain’s friendship; while they were inserted kind of clumsily into the story, they really did help you see who exactly Wendy was, and what made her tick. Throughout it all you got to see Rain’s overwhelming sadness over losing Wendy, even though the two of them hadn’t been close friends for a while. You got to see the big and bright things that made Wendy human, and it sort of made you realize exactly why Rain was so determined to discover the truth about her death. She and Wendy were just really beautifully developed characters.
As for the mystery itself, it had enough twists and turns that it kept me thoroughly engrossed; I was finished with this book in two sittings. I liked how Rain kept discovering new information, and how her gift for listening to others helps her figure things out. As someone who’s quiet herself, I liked that the main character of this book wasn’t out there and in your face. She was very deliberate in the way she went about gathering information, and while she ends up making mistakes, she does her best to correct them and try to undo the things she’s gotten wrong. As I’ve said already, I just really liked Rain’s character a lot.
The reason I took a star and a half off, however, was the way the book itself was written. While the characters and plot were fully fleshed out, the writing was a bit clunky in places, particularly in the sentence structure. The author used a lot of interjections in the sentence, which made everything kind of jerky and not run as smoothly as I would have liked. Also, there are no contractions used in this book, which really threw me off. I mean, we all speak with contractions all the time – they help shorten sentences and make them flow more easily. Without them, the sentences just didn’t move as fluidly as I would have liked, and it made me think, more than once, “why didn’t she just say ‘I’m’ or ‘hadn’t’, etc,” which pulled me out of the narrative. It was disruptive enough that I had to mark off for it. I know this is a style thing, and it’s the author’s preference, and everyone is allowed to write the way they want to. But for me, personally, it just really didn’t work.
The Girl in the Park is a really great read, nonetheless. The mystery is solid, the characters well constructed, and the story itself quite satisfying. The Girl in the Park is now available in North America from the bookseller of your choice. I would definitely recommend it.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.