Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

This is the sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, a review for which you can find here. The sequel begins with Pip, who has published a podcast based on the events of the last book. I won't go into detail here as that would definitely be spoilers for the first book, but suffice to say Pippa is now a media sensation and is caught between juggling school and her newfound notoriety. 

The Plot
When Pippa's friend Connor arrives at her house out of breath and desperate for Pippa's help she is reluctant. Connor's brother Jamie is missing. Pip had promised herself, her family and Ravi that she wouldn't get so involved in a case like that again, as it almost had disastrous consequences the last time. However Connor asks her to at least go and see his mother and give them some advice on how to get the police to take Jamie's disappearance seriously, Pippa reluctantly agrees but when the police still show no interest in starting a search party for Jamie, Pip feels obligated to help. 

She gets Connor and Joanna's consent to record interviews for her podcast, in the hope that this will a) bring publicity to Jamie's case and perhaps result in some sightings or clues as to his whereabouts and b) encourage the police to take the disappearance seriously and render assistance. When media interest increases but police assistance is not forthcoming, Pip finds that she is the only one willing to help Connor and Joanna locate their missing brother and son. 

She begins interviewing key witnesses, people who saw Jamie on the night of his disappearance, acting erratically, including his belief that a teenage girl was a woman named Layla that the 25 year old Jamie had met on Tinder. When Jamie realises that this girl is not Layla he leaves the party and is last seen walking away while talking on the phone with a mysterious person. 

Pip slowly builds a timeline of Jamie's movements on that night and using this she is able to trace his last known sighting to an abandoned farmhouse, where they find a knife that was missing from his house but no sign of Jamie. 

Events race toward a conclusion that I did not anticipate and was blown away by, but I can't go into anymore detail because SPOILERS!

The Writing: 
I said in my review of AGGGTM that I found the first 50% of the book to be slow and difficult to get through. I had no such difficulties with Good Girl, Bad Blood. The plot was off and racing from page 1 and did not stop until the last page. The mysteries kept coming, the clues kept getting weirder and the suspect list was a mile long. While there was less of a mixed media format and more of a regular narrative told in third person I found that I didn't mind that. There were still aspects of the mixed media but they seemed more fast paced and well written, aimed at telling the story without unnecessary prose. I read this in a few hours, and at 432 pages that's impressive. I really couldn't put this book down and forgot to eat dinner until after I'd finished it at 10pm. Holly Jackson's writing has improved so dramatically between book 1 and 2 that I can hardly believe they're by the same author. However Jackson's tell-tale turns of phrase are so very much her own that there's no doubt she has just improved in leaps and bounds since book one. 

The Characters: 
Once again, Jackson's ability to write characters full of depth and life shines through strongly. I had so much sympathy for Pippa who was just trying to help, Connor who just wanted his brother back and other characters who were just trying to protect themselves or do what they felt was right (so many potential spoilers there). The way Jackson made me empathise with characters who should have been reprehensible was truly masterful and the way she made me hate characters who deserved it with such vehemence was a skill I have yet to see matched by another YA author. 

The Atmosphere: 
Jackson's ability to turn what should be a sweet small town in England into a menacing village full of secrets, deception and bubbling hatred barely contained was another master stroke. I felt that I could relate to the minor characters of the town who weren't at the centre of the story but watched on in the periphery as I did as a reader. The atmosphere built up until it was as tangible as a character itself, the town became its own being and the climax of the story was so tense that I was deeply lost in it. 

The Good: 
Honestly, is it a cop out to say everything? Probably, yeah. So I'll say: The characters and the atmosphere were amazing and I can't wait to read more from Holly Jackson.

The Bad:
If I had to find something to criticise, I would say that the ending is pretty far fetched but in my mind that made it all the more intriguing because although the strands of clues were tethered together loosely, Jackson made them seem tightly knitted and unbreakable. I believed that it was possible, maybe that makes me gullible? All I know is loved it anyway. 

Final thoughts: 
If the conclusion of book one stunned me(and it did), the sequel absolutely floored me. I had to close the book and stare into space for a few minutes while I absorbed it and my brain caught up to what I had read! I absolutely cannot wait for more from Holly Jackson.

For fans of: 
The Truly Devious Series by Maureen Johnson and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. 

Stay tuned for my review of House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City book one) by Sarah J Maas coming 15th of August.

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