I sat on my review of “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” for a few days after I finished. I read this for a buddy read I’m hosting with high expectations due to all the rave reviews on Bookstagram. Unfortunately, this one fell a little flat for me, and I had another mixed opinion review.
Content warning for suicide, sexual assault, drug use, implied (off page) animal cruelty, animal death, and emotional abuse/domestic violence.
This review is not entirely spoiler free, but I’ve kept things as general as possible (I try to do this in all of my reviews).
Ultimately, I landed on three stars for this (based on my review system). It kept me engaged and guessing through the end, but the issues I had with it affected my final thoughts.
What I liked
“A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder” keeps you guessing until the very end, which was great. It sucked me in and kept me reading.
I liked the tenacity of the narrator and the many twists and turns. And how you got clues to really unravel this mystery right alongside Pip. My running notes while reading have me guessing a ton of different characters. I did guess half of the end correctly pretty early on, however.
Overall, the plot is well thought out and complicated in a way that makes for a good mystery.
What didn’t work for me
Unfortunately, a decent amount.
The poor handling of racial injustice
My biggest issue is that this book had an opportunity to confront racial injustice at the hands of the police. The author alluded to that topic, and then just…didn’t confront it? That disappointed me. Pip has one moment of clarity when Ravi calls attention to not being able to do an investigative activity since he’s brown. But otherwise, the racial undertones of Sal’s entire situation are a major elephant in the room that’s never truly acknowledged.
This community has ostracized Ravi and his family, and Sal was immediately assumed to be Andie’s killer by everyone. But the book places all the weight on “because he was her boyfriend he’s guilty.” It does nothing to acknowledge the racial reasons why the police and community were so quick to just roll with that in the first place.
If this case could be solved by a 17 year old, then clearly a lot was at play with this police force and their decision to go with the evidence they found vs. fully investigating. Would they really not notice a true cause of death, for example?
The start of the book made it seem at first like these issues would be confronted. I felt serious Serial undertones as I started reading and that was a clear inspiration. But unfortunately, Serial does what this book fails to do in fully examining the topic.
Pip just seems like a borderline white-savior, trying to vindicate Sal and shed light on what happened to a community that has turned its back on Ravi’s family by seeking justice. But she does so because she thought he was nice and felt an injustice was served, not because of the real injustices at play here.
I wanted an open acknowledgment of this elephant in the room. I wanted acknowledgement that the police utterly failed Sal. And, I wanted the motive for solving the murder to touch on this and not just be because Sal was “always nice” to Pip. It irritated me in the back of my mind the whole time I was reading that this was an undercurrent of the book, and I wanted it wrapped up by the end. But it just wasn’t…
I also don’t know what the dog plotline added to the story. It felt really unnecessary and very jarring.
The switches between first and third person narration as the book changes from the main story to the project log entries threw me off. Just pick a tense and roll with it. First person would have worked just fine for this.
Last was believably. I read YA fiction constantly, so I often put myself in the mind frame to think “what would this story world be like for a character this age.” I read Nancy Drew novels nonstop growing up, so I’m well versed in what makes a good teen detective mystery.
Unfortunately, for me, “A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder” is ultimately very unbelievable. Nancy Drew’s crime solving works because we get the backstory that the police aren’t always doing their best work. And, the types of cases she solve are just borderline dangerous enough.
I do not buy that a 17 year old was the only person able to crack the key details of this book’s case. Or that a character as smart as Pip would be dumb enough to put themselves in completely unsafe situations, over and over again.This is a place where I think, had the book done a better job of building context around why the police utterly failed Sal, then the entire book would have been much more believable. Because then we’d have a very clear reason why the police didn’t look into these details they should have.
Additionally, Pip often sounds a lot younger than a senior in high school – often more like a 15 year old. I had to keep going back to verify her age, and then Ravi’s, because their relationship just felt very “off.” She’s 17 and he’s 20, which isn’t a huge age difference. But at times reading it, it felt like there was a larger age difference that really threw me off.
Last, the devil is in the details.
And there are many threads in this book that just do not make sense.
For example, it really irked me that in the first several pages, Pip signs a form saying it’s unethical to talk to the families and agreeing she won’t as part of the project. And then immediately the very first thing she does is talk to Ravi???? And this form is never brought up again? Why include this at all then?
Also, when they find Ravi’s iPhone, they check the deleted photos folder to see what was in it. But an iPhone automatically deletes anything that’s been in the deleted photos folder for longer than 30 days, so 5 years later, there wouldn’t still be anything in there.
These little things are part of what make the story just not believable. Ultimately, while I did enjoy unraveling the mystery a lot, it ended on a “meh” note.
Who I’d still recommend this to
If you like twisty mysteries and are able to suspend your feeling of disbelief, I think you could really like this. Especially if you read a lot of YA and are used to the feel of that age of narrator. It’s full of twists and turns and it was fun to read and try to keep guessing who was responsible. But if you don’t often read YA fiction but do read a lot of mysteries, I think you’d be potentially disappointed here.
Did you read this one? If so, what’d you think?