Review: The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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

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

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again. – via Goodreads

Wow. Just wow. The Roanoke Girls is just so up my alley. I think the last book I read with such a hunger was Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter. I didn’t want to work or anything. I just wanted to curl up and read and ignore the world. I was drawn in from the off, and fascinated with the entire book.

I enjoyed the way that the book was written, with the “then” section and then the “now” section, as well as the little snippets of the other Roanoke girls sprinkled throughout. It really created tension, and this dark atmosphere you get sucked into and wrapped up in. Yes, the big ick is revealed pretty early, but that in no way affects the book negatively. In fact, it makes you even more observant on the dysfunctional behaviour you were wondering about before. The Roanoke Girls is really well written and flows, with the reveals slowly but surely painting the complexity of the story.

I really liked the way that Engel created the characters. Each had their own story, and each little flashback revealed some more, and every little section of the present peeled away yet another layer. Allegra is totally different from Lane, yet you can see how the girls are bonded. Allegra has a terrible secret, and is jealous because she knows how things will be, yet she loves Lane. It is very complicated. Add to the mix how the author created their grandfather, Yates, and you are in for an disquieting ride. The man does come across as charismatic and charming and loving, which leaves you with a perverted, sickening, uncomfortable feeling, which is amazing to establish the family ties at Roanoke.

Then there are the side characters, most notably Tommy and Cooper, and that is a whole other kettle of fish. Cooper pretty much immediately swept me off my feet, so I totally got why Lane was bowled over. Not everyone’s cup of tea,  to be sure, but total book crush for me. Their relationship was amazing, and then it was crazy, and I could see the shift of it, even while I didn’t like it. They were both damaged creatures inexorably drawn to each other, and just clicked. Tommy is also the all American boy, the safe kid, the nice guy, but he also has multiple layers to him. These characters having so many layers makes for interesting dynamics, and you are so hooked.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Roanoke Girls. I just gobbled this book up, it was thrilling, sick and rough and yet there was hope tinging the edges. It had that same dark, twisted vibe as Averil Dean’s The Undoing, a book I liked a lot more than most people did, it seems. I highly recommend this read if you like something a little warped and unsettling, something that peeks into some messed up places.

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