Firstly, I’m well behind, not with reading, I’m behind with writing (like four books behind). So, without further ado here’s my review of Girl A by Abigail Dean.
There was so much hype around Girl A, that I was apprehensive about reading it, you know, in case it didn’t live up to the hype and I hated it.
I needn’t have worried, I was gripped and finished it in two sittings, it would have been one but I begrudgingly had to get some sleep before work the following day.
I can’t be clearer, if you only read one book this year, make sure it’s Girl A.
“You don’t know me, but you’ll have seen my face. In the earlier pictures, they bludgeoned our features with pixels, right down to our waists; even our hair was too distinctive to disclose. But the story and its protectors grew weary, and in the danker corners of the internet we became easy to find.” Abigail Dean
Lex is Girl A.
At the start of the book, Lex has been told her mother has died in prison, Lex has been tasked with collecting her possessions and has been named executor of her will – a house and £20,000
She’s known as Girl A as she’s the one who escaped her parent’s House of Horrors and saved her siblings, they’d all spent years chained up and being abused. Now an adult, Lex doesn’t want to think about her family, about the house or her identity as Girl A. She’s built a life as a successful lawyer, she’s moved on from the past. Her mother’s death means she’s going to have to confront that past and accept what happened to her and her siblings as they grew up.
Now, I didn’t know much about Abigail Dean’s background, this is her debut, but for some reason I had it in my head that the setting for this book would be America not in the North West of England.
I could picture the moor side town’s the family lived in, the streets, villages, the schools they’d attend and the children playing on Blackpool beach. I could imagine the weather, hear how they’d speak and see them walking along the pavement. That was down to Dean’s writing as much as knowledge of the area; I could also see the house they grew up in, the lack of food, the grim and dirt, the filthy clothes, the boarded-up windows and the chains.
This isn’t a ‘will they won’t they get out of the house’ story, we know from the start that Lex is okay and has survived, it’s about how she and her siblings have to deal with that trauma in adult life. What happens once the headlines disappear?
It jumps between flashbacks and present day, so we see how Lex’s father slowly becomes more and more controlling and abusive, how they’re removed from school, kept at home, eventually chained up and we see how each child has dealt with what happened to them.
After being named executor, Lex and her sister Evie decide they want to turn the house into a force for good, they’re determined to see something positive come out of what they went through. Somewhere that can be seen as a beacon of hope to help other people; to do that, each of the siblings has to agree. Following their escape, they’re separated into different adoptive families but still have occasional contact.
I really liked exploration of sibling relationships, seeing how Lex interacted with each one. How she’d never gotten along with her younger sister Delilah, her close bond with Evie. How each of them reacted differently, Gabriel struggled to find a purpose while Ethan did whatever he could to survive, behaved questionably and used what happened to them to gain fame.
It’s about Lex’s resilience and strength. Yes, it’s dark, traumatic, blood chilling and heart breaking; it isn’t an easy read. It’s full emotion, incredibly well written and a book that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down – I can’t recommend it enough.
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