What’s it about?
Lane is the lucky one. She got out after one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ farm in rural Kansas. But now her cousin Allegra has gone missing, and Lane realises that she has to go back because she will always be a Roanoke girl.
This is not a nice story. It is deeply unsettling, and there is little hope to cling on to. All of this is intended by Engel. It is, as the Telegraph says on the front cover pull quote, ‘a provocative thriller’, and that feels accurate. Everything in this book is designed to incite anger or unease, and not always successfully.
Engel goes to great pains to make sure that each ‘girl’ has her own voice and story, but in the end they are all framed through the dominant male gaze. The story is told through Lane’s eyes, but it is not her story. I found this to be problematic, to say the least. With a little more thought this could have been a much more empowering story for women, rather than an elaborate façade for another male character’s story.
I also found the ending to be a little trite. It was predictable, and could have been so much more effective if all of the endings hadn’t been tied up neatly. Perhaps that was the point. Perhaps Engel intended to ultimately tie all of the girls’ fates to what their men want and need, but it felt convenient. [SPOILER] if you’re going to have your heroine escape and waltz off into the sunset, have her go on her terms. Equally, if you’re going down the triggers-galore thriller route, don’t have such an easy ending. Make her stay.
Engel can certainly tell a story, and I would read another of hers. Having a quick scout on Goodreads, this book has got a lot of fans but I’m not one of them. There was no respite nor resolution for any of the very dark subject matter, and it needed something.
Would I recommend it?
Personally, no. But have a gander at other reviews and see what you think. It was just too much for me.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is published by Hodder & Stroughton priced £7.99.
I received an advance copy to review thanks to NetGalley.