Desert Isle Keeper
The Prized Girl
The Prized Girl is Amy K. Green’s début novel, an exceedingly dark and gritty story of one woman’s search for the truth about the death of her younger sister. It’s a novel that doesn’t pull punches as it digs into the lives of what most people would consider to be the perfect family so be wary if dysfunctional families aren’t your favorite thing to read about.
Thirteen-year-old Jenny has been murdered, and the small New England town her family calls home is left reeling. Jenny was smart, pretty, and popular, the kind of girl who seemed to have the whole world at her feet. She was involved in a number of high profile beauty pageants, and the authorities believe one of her fans became obsessed with her and took her life. Most people who knew Jenny are satisfied with this line of reasoning, but her older half-sister Virginia isn’t so sure.
Virginia didn’t know Jenny all that well. True, they sat across the table from one another every week at Sunday dinner, but Jenny was fifteen years younger than Virginia and the two had little in common. Where Jenny was the apple of her family’s eye, Virginia is viewed as a general screw-up and nothing she does is able to endear her to her overly strict father and perfectionist stepmother. In spite of her lack of real knowledge about Jenny’s life, Virginia can’t help but think there’s more to the story of the teenager’s death than the authorities are letting on, and so she begins doing her best to reconstruct her sister’s final days in hopes of learning what really happened.
If you’re looking for a heroine who always does the right thing and appears to have her life completely together, Virginia isn’t going to be easy for you to warm up to. She makes a ton of mistakes, some of which could have been easily prevented if she had only stopped to think before acting. Even so, there’s something endearing about her, especially as you learn more about her troubled past and how it affects her in the present. She does grow quite a bit over the course of the novel too, so your initial impression of her may change as you read.
I loved the way the author allows readers to get to know both Jenny and Virginia. The story is told in alternating chapters, moving back and forth in time between Virginia’s investigation and the days leading up to Jenny’s death. We get a clear picture of who Jenny was as a person, rather than simply seeing her as the victim of a violent crime. She was an extremely troubled girl, and spending time in her head allows us to see all the ways her friends, family, and teachers failed her.
My description may give you the idea that The Prized Girl is just another thriller involving a murdered girl, but trust me when I tell you it’s so much more than that. It’s a book that grows more and more complex with every page you read, a story chock full of unexpected twists and turns that kept me glued to iPad for hours on end. Every single character we meet has something to hide, and I loved uncovering their many secrets.
Amy K. Green has crafted a masterful story of secrets, lies, and betrayal that put me in mind of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. It’s not that the plots are similar, but the tension that simmers just beneath the novel’s surface evoked similar feelings in me as I read. This is a remarkable portrayal of human frailty, and I’m so excited to see what the author has in store for us in months and years to come.