Friday, July 6, 2012

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

Rain Donovan used to be best friends with Wendy, but they haven't really spoken in years.  Early one morning, Wendy's body was discovered in a park.  She'd been strangled.  Rain wants to give Wendy justice, so she quietly starts investigating herself.  Her first hunch, however, leads to the wrong person being accused.  Now Rain is short on time to figure out what really happened, and the answer might be more then she's willing to face.

At first I didn't realize this was a mystery.  I thought it was another YA realistic fiction book about a girl found murdered.  Have you noticed there are a lot of them in the past year or so?  So I was in a particular mindset when I started reading it and was not ready for the twists and turns a mystery has.

After the first person was accused, but it clearly wasn't the right person, I realized what it was.  Then I thought it was kind of a lame mystery because the actual killer was super obvious.  But well done Mariah Fredericks because she put in several good twists that kept me guessing and I didn't actually figure out who really did until close to the end.

Rain was a complex character who had many reasons for doing what she did.  Rain has a cleft palate, which causes a lisp.  While she had speech therapy that helped, Rain is afraid to speak.  She's a listener and an observer.  At the end of her high school career, the role she's fallen in to is "the girl people can talk to."  She nonthreatening and she listens.  This puts her in a very good position for finding things out.

When Wendy first moved to town at the beginning of high school, she and Rain became friends, but Wendy always wanted to be in the popular crowd.  Wendy was loud and brash and completely her own person, and yet she had an intense desire to be loved and wanted.  This led her to hooking up with a lot of boys, and in many cases, hooking up with the boys who girlfriends had been cruel to her.  This is important to know because after her death, there were some who felt "she got what she deserved."  She was a slut, she should have been more careful, it's her own fault.  Getting with a lot of different people and actively stealing other people's boyfriends is not something I support, but does it mean you deserve to get murdered?  Sure doesn't.  It leads us back to the, "but look at what she was wearing!" defense.  It doesn't matter what a girl is wearing, she doesn't "deserve" to get attacked.

I liked that Rain had a very supportive mother who was actively a part of her life who loved and cared for her.  She wasn't in the book a ton (and when I say she was supportive I don't mean she was supportive of her kid investigating a murder) but she was a refreshingly realistic parental character who wasn't having a meltdown or falling apart.  She acted like an adult.  It made me realize how rare it is to kind functioning adults in YA.

I ended up really enjoying this story, and while it's not Ellis Peters, it was a good and engaging mystery that kept me guessing.  There were definitely a couple moments when I wanted to yell, "Rain, WTF are you doing?  You know that's the murderer, why are you going off alone with this person?"  But she had to so it could all have a dramatic conclusion and the murderer could reveal their whole dastardly plan.  Because that's how it always works, right?

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