So I have fallen almost laughably behind on posting reviews here (like an entire cannonball behind of books I have read/reviewed and not posted). So whoops. Going to try to be better about keeping up! I’m going to post a couple series that I have finished and then I guess just start anew cause walking backwards sounds like a nightmare. When life stops kicking my butt, I plan on wondering through and commenting and being part of the community more! Sorry, it took me a whole vacation day to get to this post!
Anyways I just read this series! I really enjoyed the first two and then hated the third one. Here are my full reviews for each book.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
An American’s Guide to Making it Clear You Are Not Writing About America: so much tea, ‘Sarge’ as a replacement for ‘detective’, people WALKING EVERYWHERE, taking a train casually to another small town, saying ‘fancy me’ and many other things that had me giggling through the story but anyways that’s really not the point.
The book follows Pip a high schooler who decides to investigate an murder that happened in her small little town (‘in Connecticut’ *cough*) five years previously. Everyone thinks they know who did it and that person is dead. But Pip isn’t quite so sure that everything lines up, especially from what she knew about the supposed killer.
This book was super fun! It felt like a true crime podcast and while, at times, reveals felt like a bit of a stretch and some of the hints and clues seemed a little unrealistic, those were minor sins at best and did a good job to drive the story along at a great clip. The ‘mixed media’ formatting keeps the book fresh and interesting as you go, with regular narrative chapters interspersed with interview formats.
I was guessing until the end and where I thought things were going was not where we ended. What a pleasant surprise to be surprised! This book is a dream to anyone who has wanted to have a murder board.
The characters are young and its definitely YA but I don’t think that should deter people. It makes it a little bit more light and slightly unrealistic but sometimes that’s nice when you are talking about murder. I liked our leads and the flirty banter is on point and a great little diversion from the dead bodies.
Overall, I recommend this. If you are ever bored while reading just get a drink and make a game out of the non-America references.
There is a dog in this book that dies and it is sad. 🙁
Good Girl, Bad Blood
And were back! I really need to review books before I start on the sequels cause I am getting my thoughts ALL muddled with the third book.
Anyways, in this one: Pip was outta the game but they just keep pulling her back in! When her friend Connor’s brother goes missing the night of a memorial, Pip tries to encourage the police to look for him. When he gets classified as a low risk missing person and they don’t investigate though Pip feels obligated to take up the mantle. Pip this time uses social media and her very popular podcast to spread the word and get attention while she investigates mostly live. And that’s all the plot I feel like I can share.
This one followed a very similar format as the first book with the narrative chapters interspersed with interviews and even pictures of clues. There was a little suspension of disbelief with some of the things Pip discovers but its a YA mystery novel so suspend that disbelief! I think one of the interesting concepts was the presence of social media in this one and how the internet could work for or against a missing person. The first half to three quarters of the book is pretty similar.
However, the last half/third of this book takes some wild dark turns. Of course, these stories are about crime and murder and have rape and a dead dog and lots of darkness in them but they seemed to be removed from them sort of like listening to a podcast. However, while Pip gets more involved with and affected by these darker things so are the readers. The fun light heartedness is gone and replaced by a real life drama that had me emotionally affected. It was interesting (and I’m trying not to influence my opinions by the next follow up that follows this pattern but its difficult).
Spoilers Ahead for some specific thoughts on the ending and plot points:
I did not really find it all that realistic that people would fault someone who as a child did what Stanley did. I mean maybe a couple of crazies but it seems like his entire life he was surrounded by people who did not understand he was a child? Like WTF? It seems like the world of GGGTM suddenly has like the few good people that Pip knows and then everyone else just sucks. It made the entire world a piece of shit.
While Max Hastings trial was totally believable, I don’t really read fiction like this for believability. I was hoping that Pip could use her powers and Max would be the real life equivalent to Brock Turner, the rapist. Who is known the whole wide world over as a rapist. Who never served jail time but will live the rest of his entire life with that known. We get a hint of that at the end but its not…followed up really on her end. Just his end of suing her.
Again adding to the everyone sucks: Pip has two close friends accuse her of lying and making up the disappearance of Jaime. I just can’t believe two people could look at how upset their closest friends are and just ignore that. Seriously everyone sucks.
….I have some problems with the morality that Jackson seems to be presenting but I think I will get into that more in the third book review when I have all the facts but I already was a little like ????? at some of the things that are ok vs not ok according to Pip and co. IE Naomi being involved in a hit and run accident, lying about someone’s alibi to frame them and cover it up, Jaime here, who tried to MURDER someone cause someone on the internet said so and apparently that’s fine because he was bad at it. There is even MORE in the third book and while I understand that morality is a scale, I think Pip’s scale is broken.
As Good As Dead
So upfront, I read this as both a physical book and audio. When my anxiety about the FIRST half of the book got too bad, I downloaded the audio format so I could relax while listening. Then I spent the second half of the audiobook wondering when it was over and continuously looking at the time.
Spoilers for the second book ahead:
So As Good As Dead has us with Pip again, of course. After the traumatic events at the end of book two, Pip is not dealing well. She’s secretly sliding into drugs (Xanax, and in another ‘this is not America’ game she is buying drugs illegally instead of being over-prescribed by her doctor). She begins to notice strange happenings going on around her that lead her to suspect she might have a stalker. These stakes get even higher when she realizes that the stalker may be involved with an even bigger case from the past and her life may be in danger.
I don’t even know where to start but I guess I will start with saying I will try to be vague but its hard because to point out the problems is to point out the entire plot.
First, Pip’s emotional state. This book reminded me very much of Mockingjay from The Hunger Games series. Our leading lady clearly has PTSD. And just like in that novel, while true to life, its not very fun to read about. Pip is constantly having intrusive thoughts and even daydreams. There are so many freaking nightmares described. Every other page feels like THE. MOST. DRAMATIC. THING. And I get it. She went through a trauma. But this was a fun true crime podcast book!
There also is a weird anti-therapy sentiment and anti-help in general. While I mentioned Pip using drugs (that I see a doctor in America definitely prescribing after a super duper tragic event). Pip does the thing where she a) refuses therapy and b) refuses to talk to anyone, even the people she loves and trusts SO much. Again, it might be realistic, but its not fun in any way. Its depressing. And gave me anxiety (which I will tell people that I love about and also could probably get medicated for in America).
So this is the first half of the novel. Pip dealing with these issues (alone) and while slowly starting to suspect she had a stalker. The second half of the book takes a left turn where after Pip realizes her pleas for help from the police are going unheard, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
The reveal at the end of part one of this book was ridiculous. It was cartoonish with a mustache twirling villain. Then the bigger twist after the big twist and we are propelled into the second act where we know almost immediately what’s going to happen and then just have to boringly see it play out for 3 hours (or like 200 pages). Not only was it CRAZY and weird but it was boring about it. There was zero risk factor present so we just had to follow along as it worked out fine.
Now, to get into some of the morality of this book as well as I can without spoilers: I don’t understand what Jackson is going for here. Pip appears heartbroken and sympathetic to almost every single murderer in the past two novels. She asks whether they DESERVE to be there. She talks to her attempted murderer WEEKLY. She latched onto the murderer of the last book as some moral paragon that she wanted to follow. The man who killed a man who committed crimes as A CHILD. Is the moral here that murder is fine? Because that’s what is coming across. So…..
SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE BOOK:
Of course, she murders someone! Now this could be an interesting moral dilemma but no. Its not. Not with Pip bending over backwards to forgive literally everyone around her of murder, its clearly supposed to be a morally white move. And Pip herself, who still feels traumatized from the murder of Stanley (who according to Charlie, deserved it) has literally no self-reflection or regret about the move to bash someone’s head in.
I knew we were in trouble when Jaime of the last book was just given a pat on the head for attempted murder.
The entire second half is just a step by step in covering up and framing someone for murder. And its somehow so freaking boring. There is ZERO risk. We know she won’t get caught. We KNOW. So what are the stakes?! Nothing. And all the posturing and ‘omg, almost got caught’s are repetitive and dull.
This is also making me feel like I need to take a pro-police stance and that is NOT something I feel the need to do often. But like, yeah rapists tend to get off. Stalking can be vague and hard to prove. That does not mean that no one will believe you when you show up literally having been kidnapped. AND THEN, her “no one will believe he’s the killer” argument is totally washed away at the end! They DO believe it because there IS EVIDENCE. THAT YOU COULD HAVE PRESENTED AND DID AT THE END. So your reasoning for murdering a man was made up. He’s a serial killer, CALL THE FBI if you don’t like your little podunk sheriff!
Now, something else that has bothered me throughout the story but REALLY bothered me here was Pip not telling her parents ANYTHING. Pip believes she is being stalked by a SERIAL KILLER. And does she tell anyone that lives in her house? Nope. Why would we do that? Why would we install security cams or a security system or make sure someone is home with you regularly when there might be a serial killer about? Why would we not tell someone that my whole family is at risk because really that man could have killed her WHOLE fucking family and she told them NOTHING.
The serial killer reveal was the cartoonish part. There is literally a witch cackling “And your little dog, too” moment that made me laugh when I should not be.
Back to the moral ambiguity thing. I still just don’t understand. Incompetency and general rudeness seem worse to Pip than actual murder and its fucking nuts. Becca tried to kill you to cover up a death shes now your bud. Elliot Ward was a rapist, murderer and kidnapper but apparently doesn’t deserve jail time. Jaime attempted murder but he’s nice so its fine. Charlie Green murdered Stanley but Stanley deserved it because he participated in a murder (as a child but lets ignore that) and Charlie doesn’t deserve jail! But Stanley also really didn’t deserve being murdered! Like what the fuck is the message? Ugh.