I’m a bit late to the Sarah Pinborough party – I’ve only read one of her novels so far (The Death House) although her backlist is on my to-do list – but a year on from my last experience of one of her books, I’m pleased to have read her latest novel.
Natasha is the prettiest, most popular girl in school, and when her body is pulled from a river and she narrowly escapes death, everyone in the small town struggles to work out how and why it happened. Natasha, leader of ‘the Barbies’, has a lucky escape and only suffers memory loss surrounding the events of the night where she died for 13 minutes.
She rekindles an old friendship with her former bestie Becca and when Natasha becomes suspicious of the other Barbies as having something to do with her accident; they set to investigating their so called friends.
The story explores Natasha’s accident and the following consequences through life at the school and all the drama that comes with being a teenager. The story is also told from police notes, psychiatry sessions and text messages.
The use of smartphones and social media in the storyline highlights the relevance of such technology in today’s society. Coupled with the fact that this novel is inspired by the true story of the murder of teenager Skylar Nesee by her two best friends, and you end up with a story steeped in realism.
Selected and rejected character Becca is the most identifiable I thought, even if she is a bit too impulsive at times when she lets her emotions get the better of her. I also liked the adult characters in the book, primarily the leading detective and the dog-walking musician who found Natasha in the river; I found their roles added sense and reason to the teen drama that unfolds. All the different ways (as mentioned above) that the story is told is unique and makes for compulsive reading as your brain turns over new information as you read.
There’s a subtle supernatural edge to the story that is an element that Sarah Pinborough is great at balancing with gripping mystery storylines. I forgot I was reading YA at times and found this psychological thriller to be dark and tense and exciting especially in the second half as the truth begins to come to light.
This is an all-involving YA thriller that is perfect for fans of Louise O’Neill and Tanya Byrne, and another sure-fire hit for loyal Pinborough readers.