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I Can Smile At The Old Days

Lori Rader-Day takes a look at the darker side of small-town living—and high school memories—in Little Pretty Things.

I Can Smile At The Old Days

BOOK REPORT for Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day

Cover Story: Faithful
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Death-Tinged Nostalgia
Anti-Bonus Factors: Terrible Townsfolk
Relationship Status: See You at the 20th?

Cover Story: Faithful

The mystery at the heart of Little Pretty Things begins at a divey hotel described very much as looking like this one, so props to the cover designer for paying attention. Also, bonus points for symmetry.

The Deal:

At nearly 30, Juliet Townsend has lived her entire life in Midway, Indiana, and doesn’t see herself ever getting out. She barely scrapes by with a job at a local hotel, and she still lives in the same bedroom—with the same decor—as she did in high school.

But then Madeline Bell, Juliet’s high school best friend/biggest competitor on the track team, shows up at the hotel and wants to reconnect. Juliet’s not exactly OK with the idea, and says as much. The next morning, Juliet feels awful, and goes in search of Maddy to apologize … only to find Maddy’s (dead, natch) body hanging from the hotel balcony.

As the mystery unfolds, Juliet finds herself learning both about herself and what really went down in high school.

BFF Charm: Meh

Unlike the characters in most books that we review on FYA, Juliet is much closer to my age. But we couldn’t be more different. Juliet has let certain big changes in her life stagnate her. She’s stopped living and is merely existing. I can’t imagine a life like hers, and I felt more pity for her than I did affection. She’s also a little obtuse, when it comes to mystery solving, and needs to some professional help for her issues.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

There’s one moment of chemistry in Little Pretty Things, and it comes in a moment of high stress. It’s awkward, and short lived, and didn’t do anything for me.

Sadly, there’s an enemistry relationship in the book that could have led to some interesting moments, but as it stands, we got nothing but the barest hint that something more could happen. Or might happen in the future.

Talky Talk: Death-Tinged Nostalgia

Little Pretty Things takes place in the week prior to Juliet’s 10th high school reunion. At the start, she’s not planning to go—due to unknown circumstances related to the hotel in which it will be held. But when Maddy is murdered, Juliet’s forced to let a lot of her old high school classmates back into her life, and everything begins to unravel.

Lori Rader-Day has created a compelling and believable view of small-town life in Little Pretty Things, and vividly depicts what it’s like to get stuck in said life. (I shudder to think that, had I made other choices in my own life, I might have ended up much like Juliet. Hopefully minus the whole murder thing.) Rader-Day’s characters are distinct, if not entirely interesting.

Unfortunately, this is, at heart, a mystery book. And the mystery is, well, not all that mysterious. I had strong suspicions of who the killer was from the very start, and even with the misdirection Rader-Day throws into the story, my suspicions never wavered, and, in the end, proved true. I might have enjoyed the book more had I been more in the dark.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Terrible Townsfolk

I can’t get too into detail (because spoilers), but let’s just say that Juliet’s small town has more than its fair share of really awful humans.

Casting Call:

Cassidy Freeman as Juliet

Relationship Status: See You at the 20th?

While I appreciated your slice of small-town life, Book, your mystery left much to be desired. I wish you well, however. Maybe we can get a drink in a decade or so?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Seventh Street Books. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Little Pretty Things is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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