About the Book

Title: Poor Little Dead Girls
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Cover Story: Textile-tastic
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Ms. Norbury Intervention Required
Bonus Factors: Boarding School, Secret Society
Relationship Status: Frienemies

Cover Story: Textile-tastic

GASP! What’s this? Nary a face nor disembodied figure in sight?! And to top it off, the cover actually looks good, too?! It also gives little glimpses of what the book involves: a set of lockers, a lacrosse field, and a uniform. I can’t quite remember what the nondescript building has to do with anything, but three out of four ain’t bad! The only criticism I have is for the tagline; what the heck are murder games? The only thing that comes to mind is the board game, Clue. And The Hunger Games, obvs.

The Deal:

Sadie Marlowe is starting her junior year at the prestigious Keating Hall on a lacrosse scholarship. Emphasis on ‘prestigious’ — her classmates include offspring of the nation’s elite, and they all want Sadie to join their inner circle. The high life sure looks enticing: cool parties, hot boys, and amazing connections. Everything Sadie ever wanted could be at her fingertips — but at what cost? 

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

I’m torn, y’all. Sadie has a touch of Mary Sue-ness, yet she isn’t afraid to speak her mind — occasionally to amusing effect. But she’s SO down on her middle-class roots. I get that the environment at Keating must be intimidating, but Sadie feels like she’s from some podunk, middle-of-nowhere hick town — a perception shared by everyone else. Girl. You’re from Portland. It may not be the party capital of the world, but it’s still a pretty big deal. It’d make a lot more sense if you were accused of being a hipster; instead, everyone’s associating Portlanders with being ass-backwards rubes, I really don’t know why. Is there some Americans-only secret about Portland that I don’t know about? LEAVE PORTLAND ALONE. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Roger Murtaugh usually only weighs in for the BFF section, but y’all — I’m too old for this relationshizz. There’s probably more swoon in this book for someone else, but I just COULD NOT with Jeremy. He is, of course, extremely dreamy-looking, and he and Sadie bond over being this year’s new kids. But the dude uses bra sizes as a flirtation technique — and he’s successful. Sorry, Jeremy. You probably have relatively little experience in handling them, but the way to the heart is not through the breasts, thanks. 

Talky Talk: Ms. Norbury Intervention Required

The good: the plot moves briskly and it goes down easy. But on the subject of another kind of ‘easy’ — OY WITH THE POODLES ALREADY.

These kids — these girls — carelessly toss around words like “slutty”, “skanky”, “trashy”, and the ilk. Some even do it in a supposedly endearing way. But it’s problematic when the people using these terms can’t differentiate between subverting and plain ol’ perpetuating the tired and damaging stereotypes about sexuality. A freshman girl gets caught in a senior boy’s room? She gets whisked away in quiet shame, and her former classmates dub her jailbait. (No fallout for the guy, natch.) Oh, someone didn’t come home last night? Must’ve been gettin’ LUCKAYYYYY! No need to worry about a teenage girl’s safety or whereabouts or anything. And my fave: Sadie’s from Portland and likes pizza-and-movie dates? And she dares to initiate lip-touching with menfolk? OMG THAT POOR TRASHY SKANK. Can’t any of them see how utterly fucked up this mentality is?! (To Lizzie Friend’s credit, this kind of talk is very deliberately problematic when it’s coming from some of the characters. Some.)

The worst part is that I don’t even find this kind of attitude unrealistic AT ALL. I would completely buy Friend’s dialogue as authentic. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s almost been a decade* since Mean Girls (“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores”); have we learned NOTHING?!

*Trufax. Related: slow the fuck down, time.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

The boarding school aspect of Keating Hall gets diminished in favour of the other bonus factor — which is fine, considering how the subplot with Sadie’s English noblility twin party girl roommates doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the book, and it gets dropped for a huge chunk of the story anyway. Plus, it’s kind of contrived that Sadie’s living with them, since the the twins’ parents are sooooo concerned with confidentiality and the school also has double rooms. 

Bonus Factor: Secret Society

Gathering of men in the movie The Skulls

Man, rich people sure like their shady cults! The Order of Optimates recruits from Keating Hall and its brother school, DeGraffenreid Academy. There’s a little bit of ‘nyah, nyah, I’ve got a secret’ with the mysteries related to the Order (some of the smaller ones were pretty obvious), but the main one reeeeally ramps up the ridiculousness.

Relationship Status: Frienemies

Poor Little Dead Girls had my heart racing, and my blood boiling. It had no problem keeping my interest, but HOT DAMN, did it ever drive me up the wall. Fortch, there’s juuuust enough good outrageousness to make me overlook its attitude problem — until my annoyance with it flared up again, anyway. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Merit Press. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Poor Little Dead Girls is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she’s been overseeing all things FYA Book Club since 2013.