*Sounds the Friday trumpets*
Today, we're proud to join the blog tour for Beware That Girl with a review + a giveaway!
I really loved Teresa's last book, and was intrigued by this one. But you should totally note: this is less of a mystery, and more of an interesting psychological study on social climbers and damaged psyches! Read on for our thoughts and more!
Expected publication: May 31st 2016 by Delacorte Press
Format read: ARC via publisher
The Haves. The Have-Nots. Kate O’Brien appears to be a Have-Not. Her whole life has been a series of setbacks she’s had to snake her way out of—some more sinister than others. But she’s determined to change that. She’s book smart. She’s street-smart. Oh, and she’s also a masterful liar.
As the scholarship student at the Waverly School in NYC, Kate has her work cut out for her: her plan is to climb the social ladder and land a spot at Yale. She’s already found her “people” among the senior class “it” girls—specifically in the cosseted, mega-wealthy yet deeply damaged Olivia Sumner. As for Olivia, she considers Kate the best friend she’s always needed, the sister she never had.
When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he immediately charms his way into the faculty’s and students’ lives—becoming especially close to Olivia, a fact she’s intent on keeping to herself. It becomes increasingly obvious that Redkin poses a threat to Kate, too, in a way she can’t reveal—and can’t afford to ignore. How close can Kate and Olivia get to Mark without having to share their dark pasts?
Toten introduces us to Kate O'Brien and Olivia Sumner, two girls who are brought together via the Waverly School in NYC. Though Kate is a scholarship girl and Olivia is extremely wealthy, it's Kate's social machinations that bring the two girls closer together. However, a new arrival in the form of handsome faculty member Mark Redkin begins to up the stakes...
While the book is being billed as a mystery, I'd argue that Beware that Girl is more of a masterful look at social manipulation. Think Single White Female mixed with a contemporary version of Vanity Fair, and you have this book.
Totten writes a nice thriller, intermixing Kate's machinations to gain access to Olivia's world, balancing that nicely with Olivia's neurosis and desire for love and attention. Their friendship is intriguing but equally unhealthy, and Totten shows how they both mutually use each other as a means to an end - even if they may not always realize it.
Totten deftly navigates a series of ups-and-downs as the girls get to know each other; move in with each other, and begin to realize that Mark is not an idle presence - and it deftly builds to a climax that is enjoyable and entertaining. Secondary characters are nicely drawn and add an air of intrigue and depth to both the characters and the world, and help to emphasize the overall message of the story, without feeling stereotypical.
My one issue with this book: I was a little bemused with the frequent use of the word Gweilo throughout the book. It broadly means foreigner or outsider, and it's a not-always-polite term that Cantonese speakers use to describe non-Cantonese people. I found it a little weird that Kate kept using it to refer to herself - it would be like if I proudly called myself a hick - but... that's just me.
Of special note: Toten isn't afraid to take risks with her writing, and she definitely does so here. Kate's voice is written in first-person, and Olivia's is written in third person. It's a bit jarring at first, but I'd argue that it does help the reader differentiate between the two of them, and also is cleverly appropriate to the psyches of both characters. However, do keep this in mind while you're reading, so you're prepared.
Bottom line: Beware That Girl is a intriguing read which reminds readers that there are social games and machinations at every age. Strongly recommend.
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