The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engels | Book Review

the roanoke girlsA gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls.

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl.

But you won’t when you know the truth.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.

But what she doesn’t know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice..

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

What I really like about Engels books is that they are an amazing mix of heart, drama, suspense and mystery all rolled into a nice little package. Needless to say that The Roanoke Girls is no different.

The Roanoke Girls features some wonderfully written time jumps but largely takes place in two timelines:

  1. A summer when the main character Lane is 16 (THEN)
  2. 11 years later (NOW)

Boy does this family have secrets! (cue Pretty Little Liars theme song). Luckily you don’t have to wait too long for the first one to be revealed. I really like that Engel didn’t drag this out because rather than spending a portion of the story trying to figure out what is going on, it feels like you get to see in real time the unravelling of the characters psyche because of this secret. I will say that even if the big secret wasn’t revealed so abruptly in the beginning, it would be very easy to pick up on the little clues scattered about the first 10% of the book.

This is a twisted little tale that follows Lane as she moves in with her grandparents and cousin Allegra following the suicide of her mother.

As soon as Lane arrives at Roanoke, I was immediately put on edge by the creepy sub-characters and the directness of Allegra. There is something about Allegras initial demeanour that I found slightly off-putting but as Lane spends her summer getting to know her and the two grow closer, I found myself forming my own deep bond with this character. I also really liked Cooper (swoon) and Tommy, both as teens and as adults.

“…one long summer here at Roanoke is somehow imprinted beneath my skin like a tattoo of memories running through my veins.”

After discovering a terrible secret, Lane disappears from Roanoke and breaks all ties with her grandparents…until one phone call changes everything and she finds herself rushing back to a town she’d rather not remember.

We get to meet some of the other Roanoke girls through short chapters featuring their backstories and inner monologues. These chapters are insightful and heartbreaking and I thought tied the whole mystery together perfectly.

Through all the tears and the underlying chaos, one of my favourite moments is the redemption of Lane’s mother. Engel doesn’t try to hide that her mother is a flawed and troubled woman and as the family secrets are brought to light, you really get to understand her psyche. Watching Lane understand this woman, who really didn’t know how to be a mother, with kindness and grace was a beautiful moment.

Overall I loved this book and it’s the kind of story I would’ve stayed up late as a teen to devour. The direction, the characters, the little hints of long lost romance, the mystery and the heartbreaking arc blend together to make for a compelling read.

Written by Her World’s bookworm and entertainment editor

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