I will admit that I totally wanted this book based on the cover and title. Isn't that a beautiful cover? And Secrets of Southern Girls? Since I happen to be a southern girl, I know we can have some juicy secrets. Well, not me, of course. Other girls...that I know...or have heard about... or... anyway, here's the blurb:
Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back.
Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.
When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.
In fact, she may not be responsible at all.
You know when you read the first two chapters of a book and think to yourself, "Well,nothing else is getting done for the rest of the day because I have to know what happens"? That's how the beginning of this book was for me. I was hooked! The lyrical word choice and beautiful description enticed me right into the story. So, I kept reading.
Told in 3rd person, present tense*, with multiple points-of-view, and a dual timeline that skips back and forth, the writing style left me feeling detached from the characters. Like I was watching them from afar, rather than diving into their hearts.
*In case you aren't familiar with this, everything is stated as "is" or "says" instead of "was" or "said." So, it reads with a literary fiction vibe and almost like a script.
Julie crosses her arms to warm herself. She's shivering, and she doesn't know if it's the chill in the room or something else entirely.
After the first few chapters, I never could fully settle into the story. But, I still wanted to know. I wanted to know what happened that night on the bridge and how it happened and all the messy aftermath.
Then, the diary entries began.
As a former high school teacher, the inauthentic voice of 17 year-old Reba was too much for me to enjoy the story. None of the diary entries read like a teenage girl or even like a diary entry. I found myself shaking my head and skimming more and more.
And, that made me sad because I believe the story had great potential. The twists were intriguing, particularly the last one that I absolutely did not see coming.
The author is clearly talented and I wouldn't be opposed to giving her next release a try.