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The It Girl by Ruth Ware - Review

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

As you may remember, I've set myself a challenge to read the books on this page excluding the ones I've already read (and possibly minus the Kate Mosse one because I just don't fancy it), so I got this one on my Kindle. I have been mostly reading on my Kindle in May because I've been away a bit and it's much easier to take my tablet with me rather than schlepp books around. It also means that if I'm not gelling with something while I'm away I can just choose something else. 

I have read a couple of Ruth Ware books before and thought they were okay, but with problems. I absolutely feel the same about this one, too. It's an interesting premise and I'm glad to have read it, but I do have criticisms. It's a shame because I wanted to like the book, but the criticisms were quite big. 

So the story. In the present day Hannah lives in Scotland, works in a bookshop, and is pregnant with her first child. Her husband, Will, in an accountant. Hannah is at work one day, around twenty weeks pregnant, when she gets a phone call from her mum to tell her that John Neville has died.

You see, Hannah was at university in Oxford ten years ago when her best friend and roommate, April, was brutally murdered in their 'set' (eg their suite of rooms). Hannah and their friend Hugh were walking back towards the staircase at the time and saw John Neville, one of the college's porters, leaving the staircase. Hannah's evidence was instrumental in putting Neville in jail, and now he has died, while protesting his innocence. 

The 'before' parts of the novel tell about Hannah arriving at Oxford, meeting April, and making friends. There's Will and Hugh, who April already knows, reserved Emily, and Ryan, who is from Sheffield and who therefore stands in as the comedy northerner (this is one of my criticisms because his accent is done terribly in parts). Hannah and Will have a spark between them, but Will and April start a relationship so Hannah tries to squash her feelings. The before parts of the book take us right through to April's murder. Hannah has forgotten a lot of what happened to April. 

So ten years later, in the 'after' parts of the book, she is married to Will and happily expecting her baby. But then Neville dies and reporters start to get in touch with Hannah again. Emily encourages her to speak to a reporter called Geraint, who is also friends with Ryan. Hannah does, and Geraint tells her that he believes Neville was innocent. Hannah starts to think about the night in question again, going over everything. Will wants her to stop - but what is he scared of her finding out? Hannah sees all her old friends - Emily still in Oxford, Hugh who lives in Edinburgh and who she's always been friends with, and Ryan, who has had a stroke and is recovering. 

I did like the mystery. April is a really unlikable character and it's interesting to learn how she manipulated all her friends, giving all of them a motive for killing her. But Hannah knows what she saw. She had had previous problems with Neville on a few occasions when he was creepy towards her. It's not such a stretch to imagine he could have been a killer, is it? Then there was Hannah's professor Dr Myers, who had taken an interest in April, but he was miles away, surely. 

But, I found that the characters didn't overly ring true to me in a number of ways. As I said, the comedy northerner shtick is really annoying, I wish authors would stop doing this just to show how northern and different someone is. Then the new students, aged 18 or 19 years old, just didn't speak like teenagers. The early parts of the book are supposed to be set in around 2011 but they utterly didn't act like teenagers then at all. I felt like actually the early parts of the book were set around 2002/2003, but the author wanted there to be Instagram and stuff, so had to change. 

Similarly, I felt like the characters in the later part of the book didn't ring true as 29 year olds either. Hugh is supposed to be a famous plastic surgeon despite the fact that he would have only qualified as a doctor a few years earlier? Will is worried about making 'partner' at his accountancy firm which didn't ring true either. And Emily is a renowned professor... Mmm. This bit felt like the characters were coming up to forty years old, but for some reason the author had made them a decade younger. Maybe she didn't want there to be a huge gap between the murder and the events of 'today', but I can't work out why. All of this really jarred me and make me give this book three out of five. 

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