Tuesday 29 December 2020

The Girl Who .... by Andreina Cordani @AndreinaCordani @AtomBooks @LittleBrownUK #TheGirlWho #BookReview


Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.

But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.

When Leah's dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn't quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer - and the only one who knows the truth - is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .

The Girl Who ... by Andreina Cordani is published by Atom Books / Little Brown on 14 January 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I don't read a lot of Young Adult novels, in fact I think The Girl Who ... is the only one that I've read this year. I was really attracted to this one by the blurb; the fact that it's not a 'girl meets boy' story, but a psychological thriller that deals with some really serious issues. I'm far too old for teenage love stories, but any story that deals with the effects of trauma does resonate with me. I'm so glad that I picked this one up. It's sophisticated and extremely well written.

Leah's name is well-known throughout the country. What happened to her as a child is so difficult for people to comprehend that she's usually referred to as 'the girl who ..', with a long silence after the 'who'. 
Leah witnessed the brutal murder of her mother and younger sister. Stabbed by a teenage gang member, seemingly at random. Leah was unharmed physically, but her mental scars are deep and instead of healing with time, they just get bigger and more painful.

On the surface, Leah is the poster girl for the charity that her father set up after the murders. She speaks of forgiveness, she looks wholesome and pretty and well mannered. Inside, Leah is broken. There are things about 'Crow', the boy who killed her mother and sister that she has never told another person. She is eaten up by guilt, by anger and by a desire for revenge. She holds all of that inside.

When Leah's father meets a new partner, two families blend to try to become one. Suddenly, Leah is no longer the only girl in the household. Ellie has arrived. Ellie is outspoken and glittery. Obsessed with 'likes' on her YouTube channel and hates having to live above a stuffy bookshop with this strange, perfect girl who is protected from everything.

The novel is narrated by both Leah and Ellie, and also by Boyd - aka Crow; the teen who is responsible for the whole situation. I thought this was an excellent way to structure the story, enabling the reader to have some insight into the most private thoughts of each character. We see them as nobody else does, we see the real them, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and anxieties.

Cordani deals with the effect of trauma so very well. She realises that young people who are not quite adults yet are often told how they should feel, rather than be allowed to express their actual emotions. We learn how guilt and anger can consume one person, destroying them from the inside, controlling their every moment and affecting the people around them. 

The Girl Who ... is sensitively written. It is a multi-layered story with characters who are incredibly well crafted. Whilst aimed at the Young Adult market, this  is a story that is relevant and appropriate for any age of reader. 

When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of gym class by saying she would use the
time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercise-dodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who…, and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002.

In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel.

She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.

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