Bookouture | 2016 (27 October) | 290p | Review copy | Buy the book
If Jess hadn’t have been sick that day then her best friend Katie wouldn’t have met up with her new boyfriend Nathan (not her boyfriend by choice) and his mates and then she would never have seen what she did. But now Deanna, just 16 years old, is dead, stabbed, and nothing can be the same again, not for Deanna’s family, not for any of the teenagers who knew her. And now, six months on, the teenagers of Stockleigh are under attack. Is this revenge for Deanna or for another reason entirely?
Detective Sergeant Eden Berrisford has good reason to be concerned. Her niece Jess has disappeared, her boyfriend beaten up. Eden, who has a daughter of a similar age, is driven to discover the truth, supported by her boss and team. As the hours tick away, Jess’ mother Laura is frantic. Meanwhile, Katie and her family are reaching a critical point in their own lives. It feels as if the eyes of the world are on the town of Stockleigh.
The Girls Next Door is the first in a new series by Mel Sherratt to feature DS Eden Berrisford and it certainly rockets along, partly driven by the structure which moves back and forth between the characters – whether teenagers, parents or the police. Likewise, the novel has more than one focus, with Katie’s story and Jess’s story dividing the pages. I enjoyed both and was intrigued to find out how each would develop and I’m pleased to say that both managed very well without gimmicks and twists for the sake of it.
I didn’t entirely get along with the novel for a couple of reasons. I found the group of teenagers to be extremely unlikeable and I had little sympathy with any of them, especially Jess, whom I really took against. But I also didn’t care for the character of her mother, Laura. Bearing in mind the seriousness of what has happened, I had the feeling that Laura would have been just as upset if she’d lost her car keys. I suspect that this is all part of my biggest issue with The Girls Next Door – that it shows little intensity or grit. Katie’s letters, scattered through the pages, similarly seem rather mundane. I enjoyed the character of Eden and so I would have liked other figures in the book to have shared her depth, particularly Laura, Katie’s mother and Deanna’s mother. There is a Young Adult feel to some of the language and relationships but of course, having said that, teenagers play a vital role in the book.
As I’ve mentioned, I enjoyed the story and I did like the character of Eden (and the other police officers) very much and so, despite my reservations with this first book, I’m looking forward to seeing how the series develops.