When she’s offered a full-ride athletic scholarship to one of the best prep schools in the country, high school junior Sadie Marlowe is expecting a bit of culture shock. West coast to east coast, jeans and t-shirts to plaid skirts and knee socks, public school to private school, lower-middle class to stratospherically wealthy. Some of the girls she’s now surrounded by—including her roommates, who are actual British nobility—spend more on clothes on a quarterly basis than her father spent on his car, and plenty of those same girls waste no time in letting her know that she’s not particularly welcome.
And that’s before she hears about the Keating Curse.
Before she gets kidnapped in the middle of the night.
Before she’s offered membership into the most elite, most mysterious, most powerful secret society around: the Order of the Optimates.
It’s only after she swears allegiance to the Order—for the rest of her life—that she realizes that there are some in the Order who aren’t just dangerous…they might be deadly.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN.
Lizzie Friend’s Poor Little Dead Girls is an easy one-sitting mystery/thriller. In terms of secret society books, it’s more in the vein of Tom Dolby’s frothy Secret Society than E. Lockhart’s way-more-literary The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, but it’s stronger than the Dolby in terms of heart, suspense and COMPLETELY BANANAS PLOTTING. I didn’t fall in love with the hero like I did in Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl books (POE! <3), but it doesn’t feel disposable like Kate Brian’s (admittedly hugely entertaining) Private books.
Sadie doesn’t trust people blindly, and she makes a concerted effort to avoid making stupid choices—there are a few conversations about the idiocy horror movie heroines—and Friend works to give even the most two-dimensional of her characters at least SOME depth. (The British twins, granted, don’t get much in the way of fleshing out, but they are REALLY funny, and since they created their public personas as a very deliberate caricature, I gave them a pass.)
The dialogue is mostly believable, by turns heartfelt, snarky, raunchy, snotty and crass—no fake-sounding pseudo-profanity for our Keating girls! Even in the moments that it seems semi-forced and seriously expository, it’s fun in a self-consciously B-movie kind of way: “All the schools are having problems these days—kids getting into drugs and sex and vampires and stuff. I’m sure what happened to the Ralleigh girl was just a sad accident.”
There is a LOT of eyebrow movement from almost every character (some tend toward single, some toward double), and there’s so much going on, plot-wise*, that any reader who pauses to think about it for any length of time is likely to find it faintly (or completely) ridiculous. But again, in a fun way. Poor Little Dead Girls appears to be a stand-alone, but I’ll be watching for Friend’s next book, whatever it is.
*Murder! Secret heiresses! Blood diamonds! Stolen human eggs! Date rape! Arranged marriages! Eugenics! A Civil War musket! British tabloids! Lots of confidentiality agreements! A friendly journalist! Social climbing! Abusive relationships! Depression! Suicide! Staged suicide! A Roman general!
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.