Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Book Review | The It Girl

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Ruth Ware is a hit or miss author for me, and it is so hard to tell with her which book will be which because the plots always SOUND great, but the twist doesn't work or it's obvious what the twist will be, and I am left disappointed.

Glad to say The It Girl is a definite hit for me.

This is by far my favorite of Ware's books. The Woman in Cabin 10 was previously my fave, despite its outlandishness, but this one is head-and-shoulders above anything else that Ware has written.

Hannah and April could not be more different. Assigned as roommates at Oxford, April is out-going, domineering, and gets everything she wants. She's beautiful, filthy rich, and knows how to party. April also happens to be very intelligent, emotionally manipulative, and even more than a tad vicious on occassion. She has a penchant for playing practical jokes on her friends, jokes which are mean-spirited and terrible, but she gets away with it, because it's April.

Hannah is more reserved, always in April's shadow, but they become best friends. It's kind of by default though, and anyone would be hard-pressed to believe they'd be friends had they'd not been thrown together by chance.

Yet they do, and April pulls four more friends into her orbit - Will, Emily, Ryan, and Hugh. Some she knew before Oxford, others are new friends, and she walks all over every single one of them. Yet they become a tight circle, inseperable, starting their lives.

By the end of their first year April is dead, murdered during a night out celebrating the end of the term, as well as the end of the run of a play April performed in. The group remains at a pub while April insists on going back to their room to change out of her costume, despite Hannah's protests that the pub was closing soon and they wouldn't let April back in by the time she returned.

In true April fashion, she heads off, but never returns. Hannah and Hugh finally decide to check on April and when they get to the girls' room, April is there - dead. Hugh is on the med track and attempts to revive April, sending Hannah off to find help.

Help arrives, but is too late and April is declared dead at the scene.

Fast forward ten years: Hannah and Will have married and are expecting their first child. After April's death, Hannah fled to Edinburgh to escape the memories and Will followed. Hugh is in Edinburgh as well. Emily and Ryan, together in school, have also gone their seperate ways. Emily winds up back at their former school, while Ryan had suffered a stroke recently and is confined to a wheel chair.

Everything is brought to the surface once again for Hannah when it is reported that John Neville, the man she identified as leaving their dorm moments before she and Hugh found April, has died. Neville had worked for the college as a Porter and Hannah had several interactions with him over the year that made her uncomfortable, and it made sense to everyone that Neville was the killer. He was convicted and that was the end of it.

Except a young journalist who knows Ryan has taken an interest in the case and thinks the evidence doesn't add up, and that Neville was innocent. He contacts several in the group, and tries to get in touch with Hannah repeatedly. Will wants nothing to do with it, wants Hannah to let it go, and let the dead rest.

Obviously Will is a suspect, but he's SO OBVIOUS, it can't be him. But the possibility sticks in the reader's mind because he was April's boyfriend. And she was pregnant when she died. And the baby was not Will's, it was Ryan's. And Ryan was dating Emily at the time. BAM! Three suspects right there, all from their group of friends.

Hannah can't let this go as the thought claws at her mind that maybe she was wrong, maybe Neville was innocent. And that he died in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Of all of Ware's books (the only one I have not read is Westaway, which I DNF-ed), I feel like this is her best to date. The allure of this mismatched group of friends in an academic setting - Oxford no less! - was what hooked me initially, and the story certainly lived up to the hype I created in my own mind when I finally got my hands on a copy from the library.

Ware does a fantastic job giving each character in the group their own voice. We get enough of the backgrounds both from their time in college, then ten years later, that they feel like fleshed-out whole people. The story is told in dual timelines from Hannah's perspective, the Before and After. Because we get to know the characters so well, it is easy to see how all of them are suspects. Each has their own motivaions, life goals, etc that make them a potential suspect. We see them studying and partying and behaving as any real young adults their age would.

The dynamic between Hannah and Will is especially well-done. It was clear to everyone back when they were in school that Hannah was in love with Will, despite the fact he was with April. And we see eventually that he also has feelings for Hannah, though he is not single. Turns out April had a few guys on the side - including Ryan, as mentioned before. That could have pissed Emily off, to find out her friend and her boyfriend were hooking up secretly. And then there's Hugh, who had to work so hard to get where he wanted, and April was never terribly nice to him.

But, April wasn't really nice to anyone, so that's not necessarily a reason for murder.

I am very pleasantly surprised to announce that the ending was a clever twist that I was not expecting. It is not often that I find thrillers that truly stump me anymore. Between their group of friends, and April's sister making appearances in the second half, I was not totally sure where it was going.

Ware also did an excellent job keeping the tension tight despite moving back and forth in time. This was one that did not want to put down because I had to know who the killer was. It was so fast-paced and compelling that I just had to keep going.

Highly recommended for a great summer read.


  1. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this one, too. I think it may be my favorite of hers that I've read.

    1. YES!!! I was kind of over her work but this one blew me out of the water. I loved it. Easily my fave Ware book.


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