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The It Girl


The It Girl

Ruth Ware, the bestselling author of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 and THE TURN OF THE KEY, returns with THE IT GIRL, an unputdownable, chilling domestic suspense from one of the best mystery writers since Agatha Christie.

When studious, quiet Hannah Jones arrives on the campus of one of Oxford University’s oldest and most prestigious colleges, Pelham College, she is stunned by the old-world grandeur, the intellect of her peers and, perhaps most of all, the opportunity to reinvent herself as something more than ABBA-singing, nerdy Hannah from never-heard-of-it Dodsworth. Immediately, almost unbelievably, she finds a way to do just that in her roommate: dazzling, painfully gorgeous April Clarke-Cliveden.

The oldest daughter of a new-money family, “it girl” April has the world at her fingertips and has no problem flaunting it. Beyond the usual credit card-fueled shopping trips and top-shelf alcohol binges, she delights in pulling pranks on her friends and dormmates. They range from the usual, like a basket of glitter set to fall on an ignorant passerby, to the more intricate, like convincing a friend that he has an urgent meeting with the headmaster at 10:30pm.

"THE IT GIRL is all the best of Ware --- insidious evil, shivering suspense, shocking final reveals --- with perhaps some of her strongest character development to date."

But it isn't long before Hannah begins to see a different side of April. For one, while she may have bought her way into Pelham, she definitely has the smarts and acting chops to back it up. For another, she can be exceedingly generous and thoughtful, like when she dresses Hannah up in an $800 blouse to attend a student mixer. By fact or by force, it is not long before April and Hannah are best friends; for the first time, Hannah feels like she has arrived. Rounding out their twosome are April’s jaw-droppingly handsome boyfriend, Will; his best friend, bookish Hugh; brash and witty Ryan; and whip-smart and calculating Emily.

However, by the end of their first year, Hannah walks in on the unthinkable: April’s body on their suite floor. The last person seen leaving the room was John Neville, an eccentric but previously thought to be harmless porter. The murder has all the hallmarks of a viral true crime thriller --- a gorgeous girl, an elite academic institution and a suitably creepy suspect --- and Hannah testifies as honestly as she can, finding justice in Neville’s unsurprising conviction.

Now, 10 years later, Hannah and Will are married and expecting their first child. They have found solace and comfort in their shared tragedy, the scars of which are so inexplicable to anyone who wasn’t there. Occasionally Hannah is still shocked by all that transpired --- not just April’s murder, but the freedom it gave her to explore her feelings for Will. But nothing can prepare Hannah for her mother’s phone call telling her that Neville, who had protested his innocence since day one, has died in prison, old, alone and hated.

Unsurprisingly, this latest development pushes April’s murder to the forefront of the media’s attention again, and it's not long before an eager young reporter comes calling. But instead of wanting a gut-wrenching, voyeuristic inside take, he claims to have become close to Ryan and learned some aspects of his friendship with April that have never come to light. This leads Hannah to revisit that night and look back on her youthful friendships with a fresh, mature gaze --- one that sees through some false alliances and to the heart of deep-seated angers, hurts and betrayals.

Alternating between Hannah’s first year at Pelham and the arrival of the reporter into her life, Ware chronicles a twisted, complicated and layered friend group where each member has something to hide, something to fight for and, just maybe, something to kill for. Past-present narratives are not new in the world of thrillers, but she handles Hannah’s character evolution with verve and masterful control. Her transformation from people-pleaser who just felt lucky to be in her friends’ orbits to an adult who is ready to face the truth is just as compelling as the mystery of April’s murder. Ware keeps each development and reveal crisp and to the point, all while building a creeping level of suspense that will give even the most assured reader the jumps.

Ruth Ware has been described as “indefatigable,” and while I typically don't quote other reviewers, I can't think of a better description for this brilliant, engrossing writer. THE IT GIRL is all the best of Ware --- insidious evil, shivering suspense, shocking final reveals --- with perhaps some of her strongest character development to date. It seems impossible that she gets better and better, and yet…when can I read her next book?

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 15, 2022

The It Girl
by Ruth Ware