Friday, December 18, 2015

Guest Review: Tragedy Girl by Christine Hurley Deriso


Of course Anne would be drawn to Blake. He’s good looking, he’s friendly, and they both bring sob stories to the table: her parents died in a car wreck, his girlfriend, Cara, drowned. Of course Blake would understand what she’s gone through. And of course they can help each other work through the pain. It’s like it was meant to be.

But just as Anne starts to feel she’s finally found something good in all the tragedy, she can’t ignore signs that something’s off. Her friends rarely let her be alone with Blake. Even those closest to Blake seem uneasy around him. And then there are the rumors about the death of Cara, whose body was never recovered. Rumors that suggest Blake’s pain is hiding something darker than Anne can even begin to comprehend...

Publication Date: April 8, 2016

About Guest Reviewer Joanna:

Joanna Franklin Bell is a writer living outside Baltimore, MD. Her articles can be read in "Baltimore Magazine" and various sites; her award-winning short story can be found on the "Single Dad Laughing" blog; and her books can be found on Amazon. "Muse: A Cat's Story" is her children's chapter book, "Mrs. Just-So" is her children's picture book, and "Take a Load Off, Mona Jamborski" and "That Birds Would Sing" are her novels. Her third novel, "See No Demons, Hear No Demons" will be released in 2016. Catch up with Joanna on Facebook at:

Joanna's Review:

"Tragedy Girl" was far from a tragedy and I thank the publisher for the free copy I got in exchange for an honest review. In fact, "Tragedy Girl" was a breath of fresh air – I've stumbled upon some stinkers this week, and this book made up for them. I was beginning to think there was no such thing as YA or NA decent books on the horizon, so this restored my faith a little bit in the genre.

That said, it's not without the tireless cliché that every YA/NA seems to lead with: our heroine, Anne, is an orphan! And a recent one! Her parents died together in a car crash! Right before her senior year in high school! If I had a nickel for every time THAT story has been trotted out, I could build a nickel tower and shout as people walk by it, "LOOK AT HOW MANY NICKELS I HAVE!" I could even add that Anne's parents were "T-boned," which was not only mentioned using this unlovely phrase TWICE in the book, but this is the second book in a week where the heroine's parents were "T-boned" in a fatal accident! Is it something in the water? A silent signed agreement in the super-secret YA/NA author's club? A fad? I dunno, but I hope the fad passes. Also, why is Anne going into her senior year in high school, specifically? Why are all the heroines in today's books? I assumed it was so there could be some legal steamy not-underage-anymore sex, but in "Tragedy Girl" Anne doesn’t get past first base. Hmmm. Anyway.

So I docked a star for that. I ALSO docked a star because the author told me THREE TIMES that one of her characters looks like River Phoenix. 1) Do not ever, ever, ever compare your characters to celebrities. It's your job, Author, to think of original stuff, so do not show your hand wherefrom you draw your inspiration. It's clumsy, and it's classless—make up your OWN character for chrissake. 2) Do not ever, ever, ever tell me more than once, if you insist on doing it at all. You must trust your reader to have followed along and understood and remembered—the second you start beating me over the head because you don't really think I was listening the first time, I Reader have lost my relationship with you Author. This author repeated a number of things, actually (two examples: how Anne is an "eleven on the hotness scale," and how her uncle used a particular phrase meaningfully – these were repeated to the point of ridiculousness. You can have something ringing in a character's ears without jamming it into your readers'), and clearly thinks her readership is operating at an IQ below 70. Which is a shame. I hope her savvy editor gets rid of all that nonsense before this book sees the actual light of day. (We're like 4 months pre-release here.)

SO I docked a star for that, too. However, I added one of them back in because this book was soooooo goooooood!! Whee! I couldn't put it down. No real reason – it's not like I highlighted beautiful turns of phrase that I wanted to remember for the rest of my days, and it's sure not like there was anything particularly original about the plot where Anne goes to a new school as a recent orphan and must make new friends and stumbled upon a hot guy and then unwittingly becomes part of a mystery… Yeah. That's been written a few hundred thousand times before, eh? But every author is unique, clichés aside, and Christine Hurley Deriso sure as shootin' knows how to keep a reader on the hook, guessing, committed, involved, and awake all night as the lure of the next page beckons.

I really appreciate how, actually, the characters were under-described. Gone were the "full lips" and "thick tresses" and blah blah blah. The characters were much left for me to envision on my own. There were a few markers for me to anchor my own mental image on (and yes, Anne has high cheekbones... sigh... but there's actually kind of a reason for that description so she gets a pass), but other than that, the author did not pander to the always-beautiful characters that must populate every book. So props to the author there for rising above that, and letting the plot dictate the action and not someone's beautiful dark-lashed limpid eyeball pools... or whatever. And there was zero mention of how slender/willowy/slim anyone was either. Especially for YA/NA, I appreciated the heck out of that omission too. In fact, I don't think a single girl's build was described, ever. Nor should it be, frankly. Not in this culture, and not in this decade at least. We need to get one generation of girls beyond all that before we re-introduce it, maybe...

Well, I'm getting tangential. Read this book with pleasure, it's really very heart-warming even though it's got tragedy at the root of it. The scenes with Anne's aunt and uncle, the scenes between Anne and her psychiatrist, and even a couple of scenes with Melanie and Lauren who are two friends Anne makes are handled very, very well. There are comments on families and personalities and commitment and friendships and futures, and all of it is worth reading, and in fact, should be far more present in so much more of what we give our young girls and new women to read. Cheers, chicks!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. It makes you wonder if the author pulled scenes with her own aunt, uncle, and psychiatrist into the story, eh? I always find the thing the author latches on to and handles well is something they're either familiar with, passionate about, or have spent so many nights dreaming about doing, they know exactly how it works. :) Great review! Thanks for sharing!