The Prized Girl

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Crazy unputdownably good, it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel.

Virginia Kennedy, our darkly messed-up, severely hurting, main protagonist, is twenty-six years old, living in a small New England town. Biting sarcasm, extreme social avoidance, and an alcohol-induced haze, Virginia’s prime tools for coping, do little to actually dull her pain – but do make for fascinating reading.

Virginia is a complex character whose prickliness, passive-aggressiveness, and undeniable anger cannot hide what we see to be a vulnerable core crackling with worthlessness, shame and inconsolable yearning. It’s impossible not to hurt for (and with) her, as we stumble through our self-imposed quest to get to the bottom of what we know and expect to be an ugly and truly disturbing past, brimming with secrets.

The author, with exquisite patience, unwinds her story, which expands to include murder, sex, violence, rage, hidden lives, misguided dreams and the kind of evilness lurking behind closed doors that “crawling flesh” as a phrase must have been coined for.

Ginny (how she hates to be called that) and the repertoire of characters we meet surrounding her swirl and interact in a plot taut with so much suspense that the revelations, when they come (and come they do, constantly and unexpectedly), are never quite fast enough for the reader.

The cast of characters includes:

  • Virginia’s sister, Jenny, a beautiful pre-teen who has left the beauty pageant circuit, to the despair of her cloying and deeply flawed mother, Linda. (Ginny’s stepmom).
  • Calvin – Ginny’s cold and nasty-bit-of-work father, an investment banker who seems to want nothing more than to forget the existence of his first-born daughter.
  • Mark Renkin and Hunter Willoughby- a teacher and a guidance counselor – lovers, a couple whose attraction spills over into illicit and sometimes secretly observed sexual hookups – including on school property.
  • JP – a lanky baggy-jeaned fifteen year-old who has a fascination with knives, a machete, and a tantalizing dream to escape his small town life.

Thick with twists and graced with a truly unpredictable ending, this is a remarkable book in that it refuses to simplify and proselytize. Instead, right and wrong, good and bad, and the moral spectrum itself, expand or contract (in unavoidable and oftentimes tragic ways) for us to observe around these characters.

I loved this book and look forward to reading more from this exciting new author!


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