My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Whoa, this turned out to be quite the engaging read, and I’m surprised how quick it transpired in both the narrative flow and for events. This is probably one of the better stories of its kind in YA that I’ve picked up in a while, though it does have some stumbles in the mix. I hope I can expand upon the work more in my full review, but overall, I really appreciated the read.
“The Girl in the Wall” pleasantly surprised me in its collective narrative. I did not expect to be fully swept up in the twists and turns this story had to offer as a mystery/suspense/thriller in the YA genre. While usually those kinds of stories are right up my alley, I think there was something about Benedis-Grab’s narrative that kept this fast, fluid, and hitting hard where it counted. That’s not to say that it was without a few bumps in the road, but it proved well worth the journey.
One brief diversion – I actually liked the ARC cover (purple, larger text) of this book far, FAR more than the final cover, which depicts a blonde girl looking through something of a stony wall. The latter’s more accurate to the story presentation, but it really didn’t appeal to me, unfortunately.
The story’s told between two respective narratives – two girls that have had a subsequent falling out as far as their social relationships are concerned. Sera is a social outcast who is invited to her former best friend’s (Ariel) party. It’s clear that there’s been a degree of politics and social ostracizing on behalf of Ariel’s part (for a reason unnamed until later in the story), though Ariel’s father took the liberty of inviting Sera to what’s noted as the biggest party of the year for his daughter. Add to that the appearance of teen superstar Hudson Winters performing at the party, and Sera knows she really wants to go despite her qualms.
Everything at the party goes very wrong in quick succession. Armed gunmen take over the venue and not only shoot several significant victims, but also takes the entire place hostage until their demands are met. Sera has to make an unlikely alliance with both Hunter and Ariel in secret to figure out who’s behind it all. All the while being reminded that not everyone they meet or care about will make it through the night alive.
For me the narrative did start off a bit on the typical side of petty rivalries, but it became interesting very quickly when the conflict hit the ground running. And when it does, it hits rather hard. The narrative trades between Ariel and Sera’s perspectives, each giving an eye to their respective reactions to events and to their own perception of their rivalry. It actually went much deeper than I thought it would and I understood and connected with each girl’s respective experiences, though it was a bit of a rough transition to see through their filters in certain places. I did appreciate the fluidity of the narrative, and I came to connect with even the side character – Hunter and the security guard who helps the girls included. At first I thought Hunter would turn out to be the typical cocky rockstar, but the story develops him very well and quite different than appearances – I actually did like his chemistry with Sera and how the narrative portrayed his role. The story keeps one guessing as to what will happen next with both the possible suspects and the action of how the teens fight back against their captors. I was surprised by how compulsively engaging and resonant the story, particularly of this type, turned out to be.
I think those who like fluid racing against the clock YA thrillers/mysteries will like “The Girl in the Wall”. It’s easy to take in, kept me on my toes to see what would happen next, and provided an investment in the characters that I didn’t think I would have going into it.
Overall score: 3.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher Merit Press.