Girl A by Abigail Dean: A Review

Synopsis:

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Trigger Warnings:

Child Abuse, Psychological and Physical Abuse, Gas Lighting, Mental Health, Drug Dependency, Alcohol Dependency, Violence, and Blood.

‘They huddled together on the floor, bloody and naked, like the survivors of some terrible atrocity. Like the last people in the world, or else the first.’  

Girl A, Abigail Dean

I was three years old when ‘A Child Called It,’ was published, so I don’t remember a time before it. It makes it difficult, when talking about Girl A, because that’s the first comparison I want to make- and whilst both books look at the trauma of child abuse, Girl A’s angry protagonists are modern, cold, and broken survivors. And it’s part of what makes this book such a unique read.

I could also make a comparison to ‘The Room,’ in that Girl A is an introspective narrative directed to the audience with the limited information that the protagonist has. Lex, or Girl A as she’s known in her file, offers us the truth as much as possible, which is a refreshing take on such a twisted story. This book was initially sold to me as a thriller/mystery. But for all of her flaws, and there are many, Lex tries to be an open-book to the audience, even in those moments when she can’t be with her family. This book doesn’t have the pent up suspense of a thriller. It’s the aftermath of a horror, a brutal, psychologically damaging existence that each of Lex’s siblings have fought in their own way to escape. It’s intense, and overwhelming, and even in those moments when you want to hate characters, incurably human.

Little white wraiths squirming in the shock of sunshine.

Girl A, Abigail Dean

Because Lex is talking to us directly (from the opening page where she directs her conversation to ‘you’) it’s impossible to extricate yourself from her story. Dean has done a wonderfully-horrific job of tying the flash-backs together in a cohesive but fractured structure (which is, obviously, a great representation of the characters). None are wholly without empathy, even if Lex cannot bridge the gap to them, and each of their experiences are individual and dark.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy dark mysteries, slow pacing and character driven narratives. The slow pacing isn’t a detriment to this novel (though I usually prefer faster/more action driven stories). It creates a cerebral quality needed for such dark/taboo topics, and it’s expertly crafted.

Buy your copy through Waypoint Books : here

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