Review of “The Roanoke Girls” by Amy Engel

After her mother’s suicide, 15-year-old Lane Roanoke moved in with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family but quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls until she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family and ran…fast and far away.

The story weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return 11 years later, after her cousin, Allegra, goes missing. Lane knows that Allegra would never leave Roanoke, and she fears something terrible has happened to her. Lane recounts her summer spent at Roanoke and searches for clues around the house and around the small Kansas town.

To me, the best parts of this book were the descriptions of the town and of the Roanoke house. I could see every room vividly and the entire setting reminded me of the abandoned farm town from Courage the Cowardly Dog. Food is another theme that recurs throughout the book, and how horrible everything tastes.Β While it was not appetizing, it was fun to read.

The relationships in this story do little to tie an intriguing plot together. The big, disturbing secret of this family is given away early on in the book, and the plot carries you along knowing this secret with little added suspense until the moment everything comes together in Lane’s mind, just moments before it’s too late.

Because the big secret is told fairly early in the story, I found myself spending the rest of the story attempting to process it. I tried as best I could, but it was disturbing, and the shock value took away my appreciation for the rest of the story. Also, the Midwest gets a bad wrap as it is. This book only serves to support the image of a poor, destitute, boring town that many believe to be the norm for the fly-over states.

I would have liked a bit more of an explanation for the reasoning behind decisions that were made, beyond the fact that the grandfather, in my mind, had a timeless, Marlon Brando-esque look. Unfortunately, with the main secret being exposed from the very beginning, the rest of the story did little to build up anticipation for a somewhat obvious ending.

Book Review:

I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program with Crown Publishing Group. All opinion are my own.

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