Wow. What a brilliant gothic boarding school novel—compulsive reading with many twists and turns. Even though I was hooked from page one, I didn’t race to finish GOOD GIRLS LIE. I wanted to savor the writing and the incredible sense of place.

The opening line sets the tone: “The girl’s body dangles from the tall, iron gates guarding the school’s entrance.” From there, we’re introduced to the Goode School, an elite female powerhouse isolated in the mountains of Virginia. Acceptance into the Goode School is your ticket to an ivy-league future. The price is loyalty, strict adherence to the honor code, and monitored Internet use on campus that excludes cell phones.

The school itself is a grand and terrifying character: a gargoyle full of tunnels, creepy attics, hidden staircases, an off-limits bell tour, and several ghosts.  There’s also a history of student deaths, and then a few more bodies appear. But are they suicides or murders?

When Ash Carlisle arrives from England, eager to escape her traumatic past, she wants only to be anonymous and attain her goal: a place at Harvard. But once she’s tapped for a secret society, she goes from being revered to being reviled. She also discovers the dark world of bullying and hazing as she negotiates her relationship with the beautiful Becca. Becca, who is also a senator’s daughter, is “cruelty personified.” As head girl, she has absolute authority within the walls of the school, maybe even more so than the young dean, who inherited her position as a matriarchal legacy, but dreams of becoming a novelist.

Becca illustrates the many contradictions woven into this story: beauty versus horror; friendship versus cruelty; truth versus lies. Like everyone at the school, she’s hiding her own secrets. And what about Ash, what is she hiding? As Ash says, we all lie, whatever our motivation.

My verdict? GOOD GIRLS LIE is gloriously dark.

 

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