Review: The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

Quick review for a quick read. Honestly, as a lover of mysteries, procedurals, and tough subject narratives – this book was not good at all. I know that “The Last Good Girl” is a part of a longer series surrounding the character of Anna Curtis, but getting into the scheme of the narrative with the familiar characters wasn’t the challenge for me. I followed their inclusion in the narrative fine despite this being the first book in the series that I’ve read. However, taking the narrative’s promise of “[shining] a light on campus rape and the powerful emotional dynamics that affect the families of the men and women on both sides” in the description was simply an outright lie as far as this narrative was concerned. I felt cheated at a very terse, trite summation of a case surrounding the disappearance of a young woman (Emily Shapiro) who accused one of the young men (Dylan Highsmith) of a the campus fraternity Beta Psi of raping her.

The opening chapter of this book showing the disappearance had my attention, but it quickly went downhill from there. I knew I’d have trouble with this narrative from the moment it described Emily’s experiences of rape as being “Bill Cosby style” and the way the narrative shortchanges all the injustices, corruption and betrayals of Emily’s trust and what led to her disappearance. As also noted from the myriad of pop culture references and inserts, it’s a very shallow presentation of a rape victim’s story and didn’t really have any emotional clarity or emphasis at all. The emotional distance in this book is very telling and it seems like instead of illuminating rape culture stereotypes and showing well dimensioned characters on multiple sides of this overarching story, it shows one-dimensional, cookie cutter presentations that do nothing to clarify details or make the expansion meaningful when it comes to the case. In fact, the only thing about this narrative that seems accurate are the procedural details and the actual filings and procedures with Title IX policy in the university system as well as critiques of academic discipline committees trying to deal with sexual assault cases. Even Emily’s V-logs don’t really seem like true V-logs, they feel forced for narration and description and they didn’t have consistency in length or resonance.

The narrative became easier to tolerate as the detectives questioned multiple witnesses and marched to discover what happened to Emily, but where I could’ve given the book credit for at least improving to some extent I completely threw in the towel as I read the unsatisfying ending. Like, it felt like the conclusion was just dropped in your lap, that was that, and then it was back to the regular characters and resolving their ongoing role in the narrative. It wasn’t fulfilling or even remotely resonant at all.

Suffice to say, if this is what the overarching series is like, I’m probably not going to pick up any other entries within it. I honestly think the word that encompasses this book’s experience to me was “shallow” and I couldn’t get behind it for that.

Overall score: 1/5 stars.


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