The It Girl, by Ruth Ware, was a one-sitting read for me. I already knew I’d like it going in — I always love Ruth Ware thrillers for twisty, not-gory, page-turning suspense stories like One by One or The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Plus, an Oxford setting with secrets in the friend group? Perfect!
The It Girl is told in two timelines, Before and After. In the Before storyline, freshman Hannah arrives from her state school, and finds Oxford full of freshman who were all the top of their year. Fortunately, she’s assigned a room in a set, two bedrooms with a shared common room, with beautiful, wealthy party girl April Clarke-Cliveden. Hannah is pulled into April’s circle, and they’re basically always drinking champagne and having wild times, when they’re not heads-down studying. It is Oxford, after all. Sure, April’s pulled some pranks on the others, and some of the pranks haven’t been completely fun for the victim, but it’s all part of the Oxford hijinks!
The dividing event is the murder of April Clarke-Cliveden, which separates Hannah’s whole life into before and after. At a party in their second semester, April went upstairs to change her clothes, and when she didn’t come back Hannah went looking for her. Hannah found her roommate and bestie April dead on the floor of their shared living room. It’s a typical Ruth Ware murder, so it’s suspenseful because you’re desperate for more details and rereading for clues, but it’s not actually a gross scene. (That’s my favorite kind of thriller!)
In the After storyline, Hannah, now married and pregnant, begins to doubt her own memories and wonder if something else really happened. You can see how the trauma has affected her, she now works a quiet job in a book shop in Edinburgh. It’s pretty far from the path she seemed to be on in the beginning of her freshman year at Oxford. As she investigates, readers can see how the murder has affected the others in their friend group, too.
Although the murder’s already been solved in the After storyline, the convicted murderer has died in jail, still insisting that he’s not the killer. Prompted by a journalist, Hannah begins to reexamine what she remembers and what else could have happened, because if the wrong person was convicted, that means the real killer is still free.
If you’ve already read it, and you’re dying to talk about the ending, hey, me too! I have a lot of spoiler-ific comments on The It Girl on my book blog. But don’t click until you’ve read the book. You’ll want to discover this suspenseful story without any hints.
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