Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

by - 1:52:00 AM

Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Pages: 279
Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: 07 March 2017

From Goodreads: "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.

As it weaves between Lane's first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart."

Thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

So, I'll go ahead and admit it. I requested this book solely based on the title. I'm fascinated with Roanoke so when I saw a book with the title The Roanoke Girls, I jumped at the chance to read it. Then I started seeing reviews that this was a "dark and twisted read" and I knew it was something I would be all about. But then I read it.

I have a lot of feelings about this book. Some good, some probably not so good. But I do have to say that my overall reading experience with The Roanoke Girls was certainly interesting and unforgettable.

Just a forewarning, this book is not about the lost colony of Roanoke. I'd know that if I actually read the synopsis in full before just diving right into the book. What it is about is a girl named Lane who returns to her family's estate in rural Kansas after her cousin disappears. This book jumps back and forth between Lane's first arrival at Roanoke (which is both the name of the house as well as the family last name) and her return over a decade later. You get to see both fifteen year old Lane discover the dark, twisted family secret that destroyed her mother and adult Lane returning to the house to help solve the sudden disappearance of her cousin. Unfortunately, Roanoke girls don't last long and either run away or die.

To say this book is dark is probably an understatement. The "secret" comes out fairly early in the story, and it's quite shocking to say the least. But as the book continues and you follow Lane's time there in both the past and present, you learn just how deep the secret goes. I was honestly thrown off by a lot of the subject matter and found myself having to put my Kindle down several times to really think about whether or not I wanted to continue. But it was because of that feeling that I kept going and finished this book. I've never had a book push me like this one did. It calmly grabbed me by the hand and pulled me in and then took me on a twisted ride that I will never forget. This book is dark, the content almost disturbing, but give it enough time and it will show you a different side of itself.

I loved the back and forth with teenage Lane and adult Lane. I think that having that aspect of past and present really allowed the reader to experience the story in a way that almost makes you understand Lane as a character better than if it had been just the past or just the present. You see how Lane handles the secret as a teenager and how she acts once she comes back as an adult knowing what she knows. She's probably the most normal Roanoke girl of them all, but she's definitely not perfect.

I will continue to say it throughout this review but this book is incredibly dark. I know, I should find an adjective or something to replace that, but it just feels like the right word to use. Thankfully, despite the secret being very obvious and present throughout almost the entire book, it's never actually described in a graphic way. You just know it's there, and it is mentioned quite a bit, but you never get gory details. While you may find the content upsetting or disturbing, I urge you to take a chance and step into the world of The Roanoke Girls. The surface may be ugly, but underneath is a story about family, love and acceptance that is sure to leave its mark long after you've closed the book.

Lane absolutely made this book for me. She's grown up with a mother who was never really a mother but more a distant figure in her life, never really understanding why she cries all the time and eventually kills herself. Then she moves to the only family she has left, almost instantly connecting with her hellion of a cousin, Allegra. Her grandmother is distant, but more of a mother than her own mother was, and her grandfather is everything she could have wanted. Lane feels love for the first time and has a family, what more could she want? Then she meets Cooper, and goes on the roller coaster ride that is experiencing first love. Unfortunately, she finally learns just why her mother was so sad all the time, why her grandmother is so distant, and why Allegra gets so jealous when Lane gets all of the attention. At fifteen, she's not equipped to deal with something like that, so she runs. Living on her own is rough and she definitely makes mistakes, but she's alive and away from Roanoke, until Allegra disappears. What I loved most about her was how loyal she was to Allegra. Even after ignoring messages from her and being apart for over ten years, she still instantly packed up and went back to Roanoke to help find her. She's strong, smart, sassy, funny, and just everything I love in a character.

The relationship between Lane and Allegra was beautiful. They were alike in looks but almost polar opposites in personality, and I just adored them. Lane only spent the summer with Allegra, but in that time, they bonded for life, so it's no surprise that she returns all those years later to help find her. The two of them were so well-written and I just couldn't get enough of their relationship. I laughed with them, I cried with them, and there were times when I just wanted to drag them both away and keep them safe. They were definitely a highlight of my reading experience and despite them being pretty messed up, they were still fantastic. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Lane and Cooper. They were quite dysfunctional and their relationship probably wasn't the most healthy, but it worked for them.

In general, the numerous characters that were in this book were all so incredible. I was afraid I'd start to get confused once I started to learn about the previous Roanoke girls, but each one of them (despite their parts being so short) was so unique and easily distinguishable. Lane was certainly my favorite, but I also really liked Cooper and Charlie. There are a lot of characters, but there's never a time where you get confused because the author gave them each their own voices to tell the story with. It's so easy to write a large cast of characters and have them all get lost, but Amy Engel did a fantastic job making each and every one of these characters different and able to stand out on their own.

It's so hard to talk up this book without seeming crazy. The subject matter is one that will definitely make you pause momentarily and possibly even go back and re-read it to make sure that yes, that is what you just read and yes, that is the direction that the story is going. But bear with me here because that is only one very small aspect of this book. What kept me turning the pages was Amy Engel's writing. It's so beautiful and feels like it could just draw you in to rural Kansas to experience the things that Lane is going through in both the past and the present. It's so descriptive and haunting and honestly, unlike any other book I've read. I found myself struggling on whether or not to continue several times, but I just couldn't get enough of the writing that I had to continue. It leaves its mark on you, without a doubt, but in the best way possible. This is a book that takes you through every emotion you could imagine, makes you question why you'd ever read a book like this, and will absolutely make you fall in love with how incredible the words on the pages are. I'm serious, this book is intense and dark but the writing flows like a small creek and will be your candle in the darkness. I've never read anything like this before, and I will probably be recommending it to anyone looking for a new book to devour.

I had so many conflicting emotions regarding this book. I liked it, but I couldn't understand why I'd like a book that had such dark subject matter, and it seriously made me question myself. But if you're willing to just accept the darkness, you'll find an incredibly beautiful book underneath it all. This is perfect for readers looking for a dark and twisted story that will take you on a roller coaster from start to finish and leave you breathless by the end.

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