Book review #2: It Girl by Ruth Ware

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This is only the second book I’ve read by Ruth Ware but neither of them have disappointed me. I will definitely be looking into her other work to complete my collection. In “It girl”, we’re following Hannah many years after the death of her best friend April back in college. The man who Hannah witnessed leave the scene of April’s death has now died in prison, proclaiming his innocence until the very end. Hannah starts having doubts about the man she’s accused of April’s murder and wonders if the killer perhaps roams free still.

ruth ware, it girl, book review

The story jumps back and forth from the time Hannah was in college and her relationship with April, and the present time where the shadow of April still looms over her no matter how far she runs. Usually I struggle with intertwined timelines but Ruth Ware made it easy to follow the events. The chapters flowed into each other seamlessly and they weren’t too long so this made the jumps from past to present feel natural.
What I liked the most about the story was how every character had a plausible reason to hurt April. April made no shortage of enemies during her time at the university. The reveal of the killer felt plausible because there were many breadcrumbs left throughout the story – you just had to follow the right trail.
I’m just incredibly glad that the most obvious choice wasn’t the right one and the conclusion to the story was satisfying!
The next few sections will contain some light spoilers but I would still advise you not to read them if you haven’t read the whole book!

April, the self-aware rich girl

There’s just something about a character like April that hooks me every time. She is not a protagonist for a reason but she is a driving force to the plot. The other characters don’t have what she has – that spark, that flame that keeps burning long after she’s gone. Somebody like her inevitably leaves a mark, often a scar, that sticks to you for the rest of your life.
Hannah was no exception to that. What happens when a popular, rich girl befriends a self-proclaimed “nobody” like Hannah? It’s inevitable that their friendship becomes overwhelming. Hannah was painfully aware of who April was, she saw her behind the curtains, behind the mask she puts on for everybody. April wasn’t just a rich girl whose dad paid her way out of any mistakes she’s made. April partied and caused chaos but April also worked hard, even at the expense of her own health. She was smart and resourceful but didn’t seem to mind that everybody thought she was the typical air-head rich girl.
Thing is, April was both. This meant that people either liked her or really, really hated her. This put a huge target on her back. Which is ironic, considering she liked to put targets on other people’s backs as well by pulling increasingly cruel pranks on even her closest friends. She made sure people were obsessed with her but also wary of her.
April is hard to like. But she is hard to truly dislike too. When you have somebody like that as a center of your mystery, it’s inevitable that the reveal is going to be juicy. Every single time a new reveal about April drops, it somehow makes sense – she really was that girl.

Hannah, the main character

Hannah was a pleasant character to follow throughout the story. She goes from an insecure girl who thinks the Oxford university setting is too big for her to a girl who is a part of a pretty prestigious group of friends to a guilt-ridden adult married to the ex-boyfriend of her dead best friend.
Add onto all that the fact that Hannah started doubting she accused the right person of April’s murder and that’s a lot for a pregnant woman to handle at once. Hannah’s character arc follows a trajectory of denial – acceptance – action. In the denial phase, Hannah doesn’t want to see or hear anything related to the passing of April’s “murderer”. She avoids the topic like the plague. Until it becomes unavoidable. In the acceptance section, she starts talking to her old friends, starts following clue and starts doubting the conviction she was so so sure of when she put what now looks like an innocent man in prison.
In the action section, Hannah starts making mistakes that almost cost her and her husband their lives.
The part of Hannah’s storyline that stuck out the most to me is just how relatable it was when it came to how she dealt with a man who is much older than her and who was behaving in a stalker-ish manner. Living in constant discomfort, taking the most inconvenient detours just to avoid them, constantly looking over one’s shoulder… that alone definitely felt like its own horror movie.
Additionally, I like how the story played on the “it’s always the boyfriend/husband” trope. Like Hannah, I also went back and forth from doubting her husband to believing he isn’t the kind of man who would kill somebody. In moments where she was both struggling to maintain her physical health for the sake of her baby and the rising potential that somebody she knows and cares about might be a murderer were nail-biting. It was easy to feel for her. She was not only physically but mentally vulnerable and that alone made me want to root for her no matter the outcome.
One frustrating moment I experienced with her story arc was near the end when she chose to trust the actual murderer because it never occurred to her to doubt that person. The frustration came mostly from knowing that she knew better but in that split second of cloudy judgment, she fell right into the trap of the real culprit. Betrayal never comes from your enemies, rightfully so.

Rating

characters: ★★★★☆
premise: ★★★★☆
plot twist: ★★★★☆
spook factor: ★☆☆☆☆
enjoyment factor: ★★★★☆

If you enjoy a mystery that that takes a bit of time to build up but then keeps escalating to a satisfying finale, I would definitely recommend this book.

  • June 3, 2024