Book Review

All the Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

all the wicked girls

‘Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.’

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…

I read Whitaker’s debut novel, Tall Oaks, earlier this year, and I absolutely loved it.  The plot, the characters, the writing, the ending – it was all perfect, and I was thrilled to receive a proof of his follow up, All the Wicked Girls, even though it came with the usual doubts as to whether he could follow up on such an astounding novel.

I found All the Wicked Girls to be quite a different story to Tall Oaks.  It’s much darker in tone, and the atmosphere in this novel is almost palpable.  This is partly due to missing Summer and the concerns that she may have been taken rather than runaway, but was enhanced by a storm that rolls over the town – one that threatens to be huge when it finally breaks.  I loved the lingering threat implicit in the storm, and I’m full of admiration for the way in Whitaker was able to capture the oppressive nature of an imminent storm, and how this added to tension.  It was almost a character in itself, one whose brooding nature casts a far-reaching shadow over this troubled town.

Anyone who has read Tall Oaks will know that Whitaker does character brilliantly, and All the Wicked Girls doesn’t disappoint on this score.  Reading it, I felt as though I could walk into Grace already knowing the people who live there, they are all so well fleshed-out.  For me, Raine was the standout character of the novel.  She’s rather different to the golden girl that is her missing sister, Summer, and I loved her feisty, argumentative nature.  Whilst many see her as trouble (and expect her to end up in serious trouble of one kind or another before long), I got the feeling that she had decided that she couldn’t compete with Summer, and so didn’t even bother trying.  When her sister goes missing, however, she soon gets down to the business of trying to find out what happened to her, helped by Noah and his friend, Purv.  Now, Noah is no Manny Romero, but there was something in the friendship of Noah and Purv that reminded me of Manny and his friend, Abe, and these guys are really sweet.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot – I went into the novel with relatively little detail, and I enjoyed it all the more because of this.  I think it’s enough to say that it’s a riveting, fast-paced story and I rushed through it in order to find out what happened, finishing it in a single day.  And whilst I had several theories as to how it would end, none of them were correct, something which pleased me greatly.  This is another fantastic novel from Whitaker, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

All the Wicked Girls will be published on 24 August by Bonnier Zaffre.  Many thanks to Emily Burns for the review copy.

Rating: ★★★★★


  1. Well said Jo! I’ve been looking forward to your review and I’m so happy to hear you loved this one as well. You’re so right about the thunderstorm and his use of that to build more tension. Chris is 2 for 2 that’s for sure.

    1. Thank you! It’s taken me ages to write, and I’m still not sure I’ve done a particularly good job of it… Such a wonderful novel though – can’t wait to see what he does next!

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