CW: Child abuse
I devoured Girl A by Abigail Dean – I read it in two sittings, staying up late on a work night to finish the book. It wasn’t like what I expected at all – I’ve seen it described as a thriller but it’s much more psychological than your average thriller, relying on characters rather than plot.
Lex, the eponymous Girl A, escaped from her abusive parents’ house and freed her siblings from captivity. Now, years later, her mother has died in prison and Lex is left as executor of her will, causing Lex to revisit her past. The story switches between the present and flashbacks, and from the flashbacks and conversations with her siblings, we start to learn more about Lex’s childhood and the truly awful things her parents did.
The content of this novel is very dark, but I think Dean does a good job of balancing the novel, making sure it isn’t too bleak and remaining sensitive/non-exploitative.
The novel is gripping and absolutely fascinating – as what happened is told through flashbacks (which are mostly in chronological order), the story of the past is drip-fed to you, never answering too many questions and always keeping you guessing about everything that happened. The present-day material is also very interesting; the family dynamics feel very real and well thought out. There’s obviously a lot of powerful emotions at play, and the relationships are complicated (as you would expect). I was just as interested in the siblings as I was in Lex – and Abigail Dean does a very good job of managing a large host of very complex characters.
This novel is intense and twisty – it leaves you guessing for as long as it can (which I enjoy) and never fails to surprise you! There were definitely a few twists I did not see coming at all. It’s a really thorough look at the long-term effects of child abuse, and it can be difficult to read at times: both their parents’ abuse, and the way that the children were treated afterwards – for example, one of the sibling’s treatment by his adopted parents and the media comes to mind.
I really, really enjoyed this novel. It won’t be for everyone – it’s very character driven, and some people could be deeply affected by the content of the novel. However, I found it incredibly well-written, and it will be a novel that stays with me for a very long time.