Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.
Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.
But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
*Synopsis and photo from Goodreads
*Thank you to the publisher, Bonnier Zaffre, and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s another missing person story. Will I ever get tired of it? Maybe. But for now, I still find the missing person trope interesting. In All the Wicked Girls, a string of teenage girls went missing. Summer Ryan is the latest girl that’s gone missing, the first from the town of Grace. There seems to be a pattern. They are all well-mannered church-going girls and not one of them was ever found. They were believed to be abducted by an elusive man covered with feathers they named as The Bird. People feared him, some even believed him to be the devil. The police are understaffed and with dark clouds looming over the town for the past few days causing worry amongst the townspeople, they can’t do much. And so, Summer’s family took it upon themselves to look for her. Her dad is with his group of friends scouring the whole town of Grace and its nearby areas to locate her. And though they are the exact opposite of each other, Raine will do everything to find her twin sister. Even if it means spending time with a couple of guys she doesn’t really care about before. Noah and Purv are the only people willing to help Raine look for her sister, and she will take any help that she could get. But in her quest in finding her sister reveals a lot more about Summer than clues about where she might be. It looks like Summer is not what she seems to be after all and she is hiding a secret that may come as a shock to her community.
All the Wicked Girls is set in a small God-fearing town in Alabama in 1995. The story explores a lot of themes that others might find heavy and dark, even disturbing: poverty, violence, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, religion, chronic disease, addiction to alcohol and drugs. I had a really slow start with this book, it didn’t grab my attention immediately as I hoped it would. The writing style took me a while to get used to. It might be because the narrative incorporated the southern accent/dialect, something I’m not really used to seeing in my book choices. But in a way, though, it made things authentic. Once I get the hang of it, I get sucked in to the mystery within the town of Grace up to the very end.
It was told from multiple points of view of some of the townspeople from Grace but mostly focused on Raine, Noah, and Summer. Aside from Summer, whose narrative was of the past leading to her disappearance, the others are all giving an account in the present time. Despite the numerous characters, though, the transition from one to another is not as confusing as I thought it would be. Maybe because I was so absorbed in the story. They are all engaging characters as well, each with interesting stories to tell, each dealing with their own issues yet caught in the web of Summer Ryan’s disappearance. And as the story unfolds, secrets, lies, troubles, and pains of the characters are revealed that made them feel even more real. The small town scene where everyone knows of or heard of everyone felt so familiar, so realistic.
All the Wicked Girls is a well-crafted, intense and truly compelling story that will induce a lot of emotions on its readers. The puzzle that is Summer’s disappearance will keep you guessing until the end. It is sad, unsettling and heartbreaking even but a satisfying read nonetheless.