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Book Review: The Wicked Girls

Just finished reading The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood. It bills itself as a psychological thriller and it definitely delivers. Probably one of the most riveting books I've read all year.

At the age of 11, Jade Walker and Annabel Oldacre are convicted as juvenile offenders and co-conspirators in the brutal murder of a 4 year old girl (Chloe) in their community. Because of Walker's dysfunctional upbringing, no one is surprised at her involvement in this kind of trouble but Oldacre comes from a proper well respected family and so she is viewed with more derision as "she should have known better". Likewise, Jade's rehabilitation is more generous and forgiving allowing for her poor upbringing while Annabel is dealt with by the court system more harshly. Annabel has her own family troubles as well - just deeply hidden from the public spotlight- making the way she was singled out for stiffer punishment seem especially cruel. Years later, aged out of the juvenile prison system and released, Jade and Annabel live with the secret of their shared past. Each of them has been shielded by the state with a new identity and sent into adulthood with a fresh start and gainful employment and they both believe that no one is the wiser to their secrets. A condition of their parole is that they must not have any contact with one another and while both adhere to this without issue for years, a brewing news story in Annabel's community brings Jade (now Kirsty Lindsay) face to face with Annabel (now Amber Gordon) and opens up a new chapter in their lives that threatens to unravel everything good they've managed to establish after their release. Woven into this thrilling central plot are two compelling side stories involving disturbed men in Annabel's community, a great deal of secondary character development for Jade and Annabel's friends and coworkers, and a well paced flashback story that slowly teases out the details of the day Chloe died.  

At the end of the book I found myself questioning the perception of Annabel and Jade as cold blooded childhood killers. Did each get what they truly deserved in the prison system? And as adults did they prove that wickedness is something you're born with or something you grow into with a habit of bad choices and lies? Perhaps even evil can be something we are desperately and helplessly pushed into by external factors?

The great strength of Marwood's writing is that she has drawn me into a genre I rarely enjoy. I prefer happy endings and I don't do well with graphic violence but Marwood tells her tale so well that I can't help but recommend it anyway.


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