ARC Book Review: The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common

desperate girls

ashley | The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common set out to do something really important and contained a lot of important and impactful messages. For that, I loved what this book stood for and what it was trying to accomplish.

Things started strong: two missing girls, one found dead, and the makings of a good murder mystery with some important racial and humanist overtones. Not to mention, this took place in a small northern Ontario (Canada) town, so it hit really close to home for me and focused on a lot of things I hear about regularly. But the further I read, the more problems I had with certain phrasing that made me, more than once, pause and cringe. Frankly, I didn’t like how this was written. 

We have the lead character, Jenny, molded to be the one questioning the racist and questionable actions and reactions of the townsfolk who ultimately care more about a missing white girl than a murdered Native girl. She is the voice that is trying to bring awareness to a very real and unfortunate reality, but I found that a lot of her comments in regular conversation were so flippant and held these backhanded judgements or accusations. There were a lot of conversations that put a certain characteristic of someone into a really small cliched box and that, to me, defeats the purpose of trying to raise awareness of everyone else doing the same thing. 

A lot of very sensitive subjects are touched upon here, including racism and prejudice, but also slut shaming and bullying. I have a read a lot of books about the later and have seen how delicately and still effectively these topics can be talked about and I just didn’t feel that here. Again, Jenny was defending her friend from being blacklisted as a whore, but in the next sentence, she would make a comment attributing certain actions as trashy and applying the same unfair judgement to someone else. It isn’t intentional, the book clearly tries to bring attention to this as a problem, but at the same time, the character trying to raise that awareness is doing the exact same thing over and over again. I had a really, really hard time getting past this.

I also had some issues with the descriptive prose; when speaking about the horrible murder, we were told endlessly that it was gruesome, but we were never made to feel that awfulness. The words used their definitions to tell us, as opposed to using other words to actually describe it to us, and I also have a big problem with just explaining as opposed to describing. I want to feel something, even if it’s something awful, not just be told how I should be feeling. 

But I don’t want to cut too much into this book because I honestly feel that it stands for something so good and what it’s trying to raise awareness about is a very real situation, especially in Canada, and this deserves the attention for trying to bring light to that. 

​U​ltimately, the story itself is driven ​ and it definitely starts to find its footing more towards the end. I ​didn’t mind following Jenny on her travels to uncover the truth, even if I didn’t always agree with the actions she was taking to do so ​ (which opens up a whole other faucet of opinions on my end, but I will spare you this time).​ I felt that the core of the story was a worthwhile read, ​ though perhaps it took on a bit too many big topics to cover in one go, and​ there was just a lot of other stuff to get caught up on along the way that probably really took away from the overall feel of the book.


more information

today! september 19, 2017

copy provided for honest review by
Net Galley