Author: Ruth Ware
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pub. Date: Jul. 2022
The title of this book has been driving me nuts ever since I saw the cover. I hate that the title is in all-caps because I can’t help but read it as The I.T. Girl every time! After having read it, I can confirm this is about an “it” girl and in fact has nothing to do with I.T. In case you also work in a technical field and were unsure, lol.
It’s no secret that I love Ruth Ware. I’ve read everything she’s ever written. In terms of storytelling, I don’t think she’s the best mystery/thriller writer ever and I actually rate most of her books very middle of the road. But I do think she is an excellent suspense writer and I find her books so compulsively readable, which is why I return to them over and over again. Even though I haven’t loved all her books, this was the first one where I actively struggled to read it.
This book is about 50-100 pages longer than all of her other books, and it felt like it. She employs the dual timeline in this book and while I think it was effective, in the first half, it only served to slow down the story. Hannah Jones is our main character and we learn from the start that her Oxford University experience came to a quick end when her roommate, April, is murdered at the end of her first year. An Oxford Porter is convicted of the crime based on Hannah’s testimony and when he dies in prison, Hannah starts questioning her memory and whether there was more to that night than she remembers.
The story is told between flashbacks to her time at Oxford and her cool group of friends that centered around “it girl” April Coutts-Cliveden, and her quiet current day life in Edinburgh. I was mildly interested in her life at Oxford – April is an interesting character. She is manipulative and makes a lot of questionable choices, but you know from the beginning that she ends up dead, so it’s hard to be overly critical of her. Hannah is more of a forgettable character, which is not aided by the fact that in her desire to forget April’s death, she is leading a very forgettable life herself – a life that is undeniably tedious and boring to read about.
I understand why Ware uses the dual timeline and I do think it is effective later in the story, but it’s too indulgent in the early stages and it slowed down the pace. I think if the book had been shortened by about 50 pages, it would have tightened up the story a lot and made the whole book more compelling. In general, the second half of the book was executed better and I was much more invested in the story past the 50% mark. It has some classic Ruth Ware twists and I felt like we were finally getting to the grit of the story.
Overall, I think Oxford is a compelling setting for a story like this because of the whole “closed campus” intrigue. The notion of the “it girl” was interesting – April is a vibrant and outgoing character with a lot of self-confidence, yet there’s no denying that she is mean-spirited. Why do these two things often seem to go hand in hand? Do people get drunk on their popularity and privilege? Why do other people tolerate such meanness from their supposed friends? These are all interesting questions (to me anyways), that I would have loved to see Ware address to give the book more depth. Unfortunately, we don’t look at any of these themes and I was left feeling conflicted about what I was supposed to think about April.
Overall, I think this book held a lot of promise, but unfortunately was poorly executed. Not her best.