Girl in the Rearview Mirror
I picked up a copy of Kelsey Rae Dimberg’s début novel Girl in the Rearview Mirror with extremely high hopes. I love stories that center around dark secrets, and the synopsis of this one promised a slew of those. Unfortunately for me, the story itself felt very anticlimactic, making this a novel I’m unable to recommend.
Finn Hunt moved to Phoenix shortly after graduating from college. When we first meet her, she’s working as the nanny for one of the city’s most well-known political families. She loves her job, despite the somewhat challenging behavior four-year-old Amabel exhibits at times, and the fact that the child’s parents treat her like one of the family rather than a paid employee makes things even better. You see, Finn is desperate to belong somewhere. She has an extremely strained relationship with her own parents, and she harbors dreams of being swept up into someone else’s more perfect family unit. Everything about the glamorous Martins feels like the answer to Finn’s dreams, and she can’t believe how lucky she is to have landed a position in their household.
One afternoon, Finn and Amabel are approached by a young woman, who claims to know Phillip Martin intimately. She tells Finn a long and elaborate sob story, culminating in a strange request for Finn to relay a message to him on her behalf. Finn is uncomfortable with this request, but she figures the message might as well come from her. After all, if she’s the one to deliver it, she can control where Phillip hears it, thus minimizing the risk of it being overheard by his wife Marina.
Over the next couple of days, Finn is constantly on the lookout for the perfect time and place to deliver the message to Phillip. Unfortunately however, she isn’t able to get him alone and the message goes undelivered. Then, all manner of strange things begin happening, calling into question everything Finn thinks she knows about the Martin family. It seems she’s managed to get herself embroiled in an extremely dangerous situation, and the first step toward keeping herself safe is figuring out exactly who she can trust. This, of course, doesn’t turn out to be as easy as Finn expects, causing her to make some very bad decisions, one of which might end up costing her her life.
The overall plot of the story is relatively interesting. The author definitely knows how to build the tension necessary to hold the reader’s interest, and I was eager to see how things turned out for Finn and the Martins. But, as most readers know, it takes more than a compelling plot to make a truly enjoyable story.
My main problem with the story as a whole has to do with Finn. Unreliable narrators are all the rage these days, and Finn is one of the most unreliable I’ve come across in quite some time. It’s obvious right from the start that she’s keeping some pretty significant secrets from the Martins, but we don’t get to know what those are until almost two-thirds of the way through the book. Obviously, I don’t expect to learn everything about a character within the first few pages, but I need to know enough about the protagonist’s backstory to make me care about them as a person, and I just didn’t get that here. Instead, I encountered veiled references to things in Finn’s past, things that caused a great deal of confusion for me as I read. Plus, I found myself unable to warm to her as a person. She makes terrible choices, and acts irresponsibly more often than not, causing me to come away from the novel with an overall feeling of frustration.
I was also quite disappointed by some of the big reveals. As I stated above, the author did a great job building the tension in small increments, but most of the build-up didn’t end up paying off. The secrets Finn was keeping felt overly contrived, as did the mystery surrounding Phillip’s relationship with the young woman who approached Finn and Amabel. There were a few things that took me by surprise, but they weren’t enough to save the story.
Life is short, and there are a ton of great books out there, so I suggest skipping Girl In the Rearview Mirror and moving on to something else. It’s a book with a lot of potential that it simply did not live up to.