Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy ~ Sarah A’s Review

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.

In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed.

The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she’s next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she’s never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her.

There’s something he isn’t telling her. But there’s something she’s
not telling him, either.

Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

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I’m leaving this book unrated because I’m not sure how I actually feel about it.  (For Amazon review purposes I’m leaving a three-star rating because it seems like the fairest rating for a book I am so unsure about.)  My initial reaction was that it was interesting and fun to read, but when I truly think about the entire experience, I’m left feeling a bit empty.  Unlike most thrillers I’ve read, it seemed to be lacking in substance when all was said and done.

Pretty Dead Girls is a standalone YA thriller.  It’s primarily told in first person POV by Penelope Malone, with a few chapters thrown in from the viewpoint of the killer.  Initially, it threw me off, since there is little delineation between the two POVs, only a change in font.

I did not care for the characters, for the most part, they were completely unlikeable, but I’m pretty sure that was intentional.  Cass was the only character I felt had any sympathetic qualities or had a dynamic personality.  Penelope and her group of frenemies were completely awful – to each other and everyone around them.  They also all seemed to have the personality of a paper bag, there just wasn’t anything to them beyond the façade of being popular.

The plot of this book moved quickly enough to keep me interested, but in the end, it was trite and lacking in any real character growth.  I hoped that the tragic events Penelope experienced throughout the novel would change her, but she always seemed to revert back to the vapid, uncaring person she was at the beginning.  Maybe it was a defense mechanism, but it felt like that was really all she was.  Cass’ affection and care for her was the only thing redeeming about her if he hadn’t been an important part of her story I’m not sure I would have stuck it out.  I likely would have flipped to the final chapters and discovered the killer without reading the rest of the novel.

I wish the ending would have been more impactful.  From the time they figure out the killer until the end there is just not enough there to feel like the story had a strong conclusion.  Had there been a few more chapters where everyone begins recovery from all they lost, had they dealt with their grief, had the remaining girls reflected on the reasons they ended up in the killer’s crosshairs, I think I would have been far more satisfied with Pretty Dead Girls.  Unfortunately, there is just too little there for my gratification.

I had read a Monica Murphy book ages ago, one of her early romances, and I had remembered enjoying it.  So, when I saw she’d written a thriller, I thought it a good time to reacquaint myself with her writing.  Alas, I was disappointed with the writing in this book.  At times the writing seemed amateurish and awkward, while other portions felt like they’d been written with a practiced hand.  It was this strange combination that I found lacking in coherent style.  There were also a few bizarre moments when Penelope broke the fourth wall and was talking directly to the reader, I didn’t care for that at all; had it all been written that way – like the killer’s POV – it would have been different but since there were so few instances it just didn’t work.

After all of that, I will say, I did enjoy Penelope and Cass together.  I loved watching them try to figure out whodunnit and explore the dynamics of their precarious relationship.  Cass, his grandmother, and his history were of far more interest to me than the rest of this book.  I would have loved to read the book from his POV, to find out more about him.  In fact, at one point I thought the killer was going to be closely tied to him, even if he had no idea who they were to him.  GAH!  With a few tweaks, especially to the ending, this could have been such a great book.  However, since there is so little growth for the narrator, it just left me unfulfilled.

Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

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