Book Review: Girlhood (Cat Clarke)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus

Pages: 342

Release Date: May 4th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can’t escape the guilt of her twin sister’s Jenna’s death, and her own part in it – and she knows noone else will ever really understand.

But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels…loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died.

Then Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper’s? And why is she so obsessed with Harper’s lost sister? Soon, Harper’s closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.

How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her?

Review:

I received a copy of this via NetGalley, then a physical copy arrived in the post too. Result: I read it twice as fast and sped through it in just two days. It just kept me turning the pages, so if I wasn’t glued to the actual book I was racing through it on my Kindle app.

Harper’s haunted by guilt from her twin sister’s death, and despite her tight-knit group of friends at her new fancy boarding school, she knows they can’t understand. But when new girl Kirsty turns up and admits she’s lost a sister too, Harper feels she’s finally found someone who can relate to her. But something about Kirsty doesn’t quite add up.

This was a real page turner. I’m not sure what it was that got me so gripped – the excellent characters, who were diverse and relatable, or the mystery behind Kirsty, or the guilt and sorrow in Harper’s relationship with Jenna and her death – but whatever it was, I just really enjoyed this book.

I did have a few gripes with Harper, as she did seem a bit naive when it came to Kirsty: I feel my warning bells would have gone off a lot sooner. But Kirsty was a very good manipulator. I also felt Harper didn’t behave great towards her friends, even though I saw where she was coming from with the whole privilege and not coming from money thing. At least she did eventually recognise she was being a bit of an arse.

Despite that, the friendships in the book were really lovely: the opening scene where they’re having their start of term midnight feast was a really excellent display of their relationships. I loved the boarding school setting too: like Harper, I always wanted to go to St Clare’s, twin or no twin, and I’m jealous she got to go!

The thing I enjoyed most was the ending. The climax was really tense and I had to read it in one sitting as I just needed to know what was going to happen. It surprised me too, in the best of ways. Without saying too much, I’m glad that Kirsty wasn’t just treated as a villain who gets her comeuppance: it was a lot more complicated and heartwarming than that and a real highlight of the book.

This is the first book I’ve read by Cat Clarke but I’ll be sure to check out her other works now. Her characters are rich and complicated and she writes the kind of thing I’d loved to have read as a teen.

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