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Book Review: Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

Tagline: Harmless pranks or murder games?

Publisher Annotation: The first time she is blindfolded and kidnapped, star-athlete and posh boarding school newbie Sadie is terrified. She wakes up in a dark room surrounded by hushed whispers, hooded strangers, and a mysterious voice whispering not-so-sweet nothings in her ear. But once the robes come off, she realizes it’s just an elaborate prank designed to induct her into the group that’s been pulling the strings at Keating Hall for generations. The circle has it all–incredible connections; fabulous parties; and, of course, an in with the brother society’s gorgeous pledges. The instant popularity is enough to make Sadie forget about the unexplained marks on her body, the creepy ceremonial rituals, and the incident that befell one of her teammates the year before. So the next time Sadie is kidnapped, she isn’t scared, but she should be. The worst of Keating Hall is yet to come.  

Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend is something you don’t see too often in ya lit, an old school political thriller with a few Robin Cook like twists thrown in.  Cross some of what you get in John Grisham’s The Firm with the Gossip Girls series, add a dash of Robin Cook, but make it all for teenagers and you get this suspenseful look at the length that the upper echelons of society will go through to preserve an elite society.

There is some good character development here with not everyone being what they seem to be.  I’m a big fan of Sadie who shows some strong moral character, makes some difficult decisions, and just shows a backbone. I also give her bonus points because she is involved in nontraditional activities, in this case Lacrosse.

I’ll be honest, this whole everyone is in boarding school theme that keeps occurring in YA is grating on my last nerve, but the setting is important to this work and Sadie is definitely not rich; some of the class issues are highlighted and discussed in very interesting ways that reflect some of the cultural/political discussions you hear in the current media.  They take them to interesting extremes, but those are always the most fun ways to discuss these topics.  At least, I hope they are extremes.

Poor Little Dead Girls was a quick, interesting read.  The characters have a good voice that will appeal to teen readers, as will the mystery plot with the political overtones.  It’s definitely a unique entry into this years crop of titles and I recommend it.

Annie Miller in the November 1, 2013 issue of Booklist states: “ Friend skillfully develops each character in this novel, which blends themes of romance and friendship with the glam of Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl (2002) and a sinister private-school mystery reminiscent of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys (2012)”  And Kirkus said, “While the climax involves an odd murder stratagem that doesn’t appear terribly lethal, to that point, the story is both immersive and topically relevant. A promising suspense debut” (October 15, 2013). 

Published in 2013 by Merit Press.  ISBN: 978-1-4405-6395-0.