Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Hot Key Books
So, I was sold on Beware That Girl as soon as I saw it being compared to ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and ‘Gone Girl.’ Hot Key also said that Elle Fanning was rumoured to be in the movie, and if that isn’t enough of a reason to want to read this book, then I don’t know what is! This book was unexpectedly good! It was somehow in my comfort zone but also not, simultaneously! However, I would ignore the ‘it’s this mashed up with this’ because Beware That Girl is its own separate thing that deserves to stand on its own.
Okay, so because I don’t want to spoil anything, I’m going to just lift the synopsis from Goodreads (editting for conciseness), because it sells itself!
‘Kate’s life has been a series of setbacks she’s had to snake her way out of—some more sinister than others. But she’s determined to change that. She’s book smart. She’s street-smart. Oh, and she’s also a masterful liar.
As the scholarship student at the Waverly School in NYC, Kate has her work cut out for her: her plan is to climb the social ladder and land a spot at Yale. She’s already found her “people” among the senior class “it” girls—specifically in the cosseted, mega-wealthy yet deeply damaged Olivia Sumner. As for Olivia, she considers Kate the best friend she’s always needed, the sister she never had.
When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he immediately charms his way into the faculty’s and students’ lives—becoming especially close to Olivia, a fact she’s intent on keeping to herself. It becomes increasingly obvious that Redkin poses a threat to Kate, too, in a way she can’t reveal—and can’t afford to ignore. How close can Kate and Olivia get to Mark without having to share their dark pasts?’
Exciting stuff, huh? I’m not going to talk about the characters because that will give away a lot of the plot, but what I will say if, I loved how mysterious and unreliable they were!
There was a good build in Beware That Girl.Even though I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself, I absolutely had to keep reading. I know saying ‘I couldn’t put this book down’ has lost the weight of its meaning from overuse, but this was seriously one of those cases where, if I’d put the book down, I would be thinking about it literally until I could pick it up again.
It uses the device of the flash-forward beginning, which I always find exciting, but what I wasn’t expecting was to not return to that ‘present’ moment, as it were, until the story told itself in its entirety. I’m a big fan of the jumping back and forth thing, so while the opening really had my attention, I felt like it was too obviously a ploy to keep us on the edge of our toes whilst reading, even when the events didn’t seem like they were building up to anything…they really were.
What I did really love, though, was the close reveal of Kate and Olivia’s backstories, particularly in the case of Kate. Her childhood is deeply significant to her behaviour throughout, and in the beginning it’s pretty hard to pin her down and work her out, but as things progress and the plot gets thicker, the insight into how her father treated her gave so much clarity. I’d say in general, Toten keeps you in the dark with a lot of things. Firstly, it’s the plot in general. New girl enters and is absorbed into popular crowd. So what? While the actual events seem arbitrary and obvious – you think you know where this thing is going to lead based on what you’ve read before – the depth of the characters makes this a truly unforgettable read.
When the story got to January, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, so this is a book where you have to put a bit of work in to get something out, so if you’ve started Beware That Girl and ‘DNF’ed then I would strongly recommend persevering, because the pay-off is worth it.
I think I wanted there to be slightly more resolution in the relationship between Kate and Olivia, because both girls admit that they were using each other for their own means, in various ways, and yet the final moments keep them together even though their friendship got extremely toxic in the middle. Nonetheless, this book is a really interesting dissection of friendship and Kate and Olivia’s connection was what I enjoyed the most overall. The very fact that it’s complex and hard to understand their motives at times, so inhabit their thought processes so intensely that you can’t help but be on both sides.
Beware That Girl is a dark and chilling story about friendship and psychology and one I would recommend to those that haven’t read much in the genre of YA thriller before, but also to aficionados of the genre. Those that have read these stories and probably already know all the twists and turns a story like this, with unreliable narrators, can take, because this book will impress you with how subverting it can be! I think Beware That Girl really is the thriller I’ve been looking for, and while it was unsettling and uncomfortable to read sometimes, it wasn’t contrived and I didn’t see anything coming (!) so it gets a worthy 4 stars.