I know that feeling, what it’s like to live through that moment when you realize you’re on your own, that things can never go back, that the people who are supposed to love you will never be what you need.
I’m a sucker for a YA thriller and when I heard that this one was a sapphic murder mystery, I just had to request it. And then a friend hyped this up when they realised I had a review copy, so I bumped it right up my TBR. I’m glad I did, because this was a great, easy marathon read that I couldn’t put down until I knew what was going on.
Rating: 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Kids Can Press for the eARC, it has not impacted my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: conversion therapy, suicidal ideation/planning, kidnapping, murder, discussion of statutory rape, ptsd depictions, police corruption/incompetency, non-consensual drug use, abuse of power.
About the book:
Caroline Lawson is three months away from freedom, otherwise known as graduation day. That’s when she’ll finally escape her rigid prep school and the parents who thought they could convert her to being straight. Until then, Caroline is keeping her head down, pretending to be the perfect student even though she is crushed by her family and heartbroken over the girlfriend who left for California. But when her best friend Madison disappears, Caroline feels compelled to get involved in the investigation. She has her own reasons not to trust the police, and she owes Madison — big time.
Suddenly Caroline realizes how little she knew of what her friend was up to. Caroline has some uncomfortable secrets about the hours before Madison disappeared, but they’re nothing compared to the secrets Madison has been hiding. And why does Mr. McCormack, their teacher, seem to know so much about them?
It’s only when Caroline discovers other missing girls that she begins to close in on the truth. Unlike Madison, the other girls are from the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Madison’s, their disappearances haven’t received much attention. Caroline is determined to find out what happened to them and why no one seems to notice. But as every new discovery leads Caroline closer to the connection between these girls and Madison, she faces an unsettling truth.
There’s only one common denominator between the disappearances: Caroline herself.
What did I think?
Throwaway Girls is an interesting and complex thriller that did actually keep me guessing most of the way through. I was piecing things together but I still didn’t quite manage to put everything together before the reveal unravelled in a high octane race to the end of the book. I read the last 45% of this book in an hour, because I just couldn’t put it down until I knew what was coming next. This book covers some dark topics, but that’s not a surprise for a murder mystery thriller, and I think Caroline’s anxiety, PTSD and the way she handles the conversion therapy she was forced into is all portrayed with sensitivity but without softening the pain that she’s been through. There’s scathing commentary on the way that marginalised groups are treated, but I liked the awareness that Caroline had for her privilege and her acknowledgement of the classism inherent in her and her classmate’s lives – though it wasn’t as though she was perfectly woke. It made me like her a lot, because while she was inherently a good person, she didn’t suffer from protagonist perfection. She lied and manipulated and when it came down to it she’d be the first person to tell you that she’d been a bad friend. But her loyalty and commitment to do better was heart-warming and made me fall in love with her.
The narrative was split in two parts, with most of the chapters from our protagonist’s POV and some from another POV that’s not revealed at first. I wasn’t that keen on the alternate POV. By the end of the book I understood why it was there, and it did lead to an excellent moment partway through where I was struck by a sudden realisation, but I found it kind of boring at first and didn’t engage with it that much. I think I probably missed little clues because of that. Caroline’s POV was super engaging and interesting though, and I loved the way she was characterised throughout. By the end of this book I honestly just want to read about Caroline burning the world down.