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Book Review: The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Benedis-Grab

“We haven’t found Ariel,” The Assassin says, his words clipped. “Which can only mean one thing. You helped her or you’re helping her now, keeping her concealed from us. She is somewhere on the property, that we know for sure, and so I’ll ask one more time. Where is Ariel?”
A terrible silence follows. I put my hands on my bloated stomach, afraid I might puke.
“you need more incentive I see,” The Assassin says after a minute, his voice compressed fury. “and so we will give it to you.” His upper lip curls as he pauses and I can feel his eyes boring into me, to the others, through his shades.
Bile gathers at the back of my throat.
“It’s simple,” he says, his voice a blade of steel. “You have until midnight to tell us where she is. If we don’t have her by then, someone in this room will be shot.”

Estranged for 9 months and 4 days, former best friends Sera and Ariel are forced into each others’ company when Sera has to attend Ariel’s birthday party- a weekend event that is the MUST-attend event of the social season, kicking off with a private concert by the newest rock star to hit the charts.  Yet, minutes into the concert, terrorists take over the house and take the party-goers hostage, killing Ariel’s dad and who they think is Ariel. Ariel escapes into the tunnels hidden throughout the house. Sera is the only one who knows where she could have possibly gone to, and they must work together in order to rescue themselves and everyone else from danger, both from the terrorists and from others, for the danger started before the party and reaches far beyond Ariel’s father.
Benedis-Grab narrates the story from the viewpoints of both Sera and Ariel through alternating chapters, with nearly every chapter ending in some sort of cliffhanger or tension point that is sure to keep readers on edge.  The action starts off right away, and backstory is woven sporadically throughout the book, which can be hard to catch for a lot of readers, and even harder to mesh into a cohesive whole.  The revelations and romances throughout the book are perhaps lacking logic to readers looking for substance, but those looking for a high adventure read will be engaged. 2 1/2 stars out of 5.
I liked the premise of this book, but it really fell flat to me, and I’m not quite sure why.  I could never really get into the characters or care about what happened to Sera and Ariel.  Maybe it’s because the backstory is all scattered throughout the book, and mixed in with some very unbelievable portions- I just had trouble relaxing into this book and getting into their reality. I never got attached to Sera and Ariel and their world, never got pulled in.  I never put the book down, but I never got the OMG I HAVE TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS feeling that I want from books.
For example, we’re told partway through the book that Ariel was taken hostage before in Mexico, and that’s why the party was hush-hush- if that had happened, then wouldn’t her father have taken EXTRA measures to check out who was coming onto their property before a high profile party with all the high society kids in the area? And, having been in a kidnapping situation earlier, wouldn’t she be a little less likely to form a relationship with a captor, even one who was a double agent? There were a lot of little things like this, things that never really clicked for me personally, but that a reader who was interested only in the action would pass over completely.
And the twists- first, they think that this person was behind it, but they weren’t. Then they find the secret hidden will miraculously placed in a photo album that wasn’t where it was before.  And they’re able to get away from The Assassin and the terrorists using tricks and unusual weapons that are not up to slapstick comedy fare.  And the ending of multiple dangers and deaths and near deaths just seems over the top, even though you know that it can’t end with everyone coming out OK.  It was just a little too unbelievable for me, but that’s because I tend to think through my books. Those who want to just read and go with the story (and I have plenty of those teens, two of whom are sitting in my office as I write this) will be just fine.

What have others been saying:
“Two high school seniors re-evaluate their failed friendship under dangerous circumstances. Benedis-Grab alternates between the two girls’ perspectives; nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, keeping tension high. The action and high stakes should keep readers engaged.” —Publishers Weekly

The Girl in the Wall was published in December 2012 by Merit Press. It has gotten an average of 4 stars on Goodreads. ISBN: 9781440552700. Reviewed by Christie G.