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A Book Review of “The Girl I Used to Be” by April Henry

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Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

“The Girl I Used to Be” by April Henry

“The Girl I Used to Be” by April Henry

What’s the Big Deal?

It’s likely that even if you aren’t of the age demographic that young-adult author April Henry caters to, you’ll still have heard of her. She’s written many well-known mysteries for teens, including Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; Blood Will Tell; The Body in the Woods; and Shock Point. In 2016, she published The Girl I Used to Be, which greeted awards and mixed reviews. Whether or not you like her books, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: Henry is a force to be reckoned with, and her novels pack a fierce punch.

Plot Summary

17-year-old Olivia Reinhart isn’t sure of much, but she is sure of one thing: she’s the daughter of a murderer and his murder victim. All her life, she’s known that her father killed her mother in the snowy woods of Oregon and then disappeared without a trace for fourteen years. But when the police come to Olivia’s door with startling news, the foundations of her entire life start to crumble.

The police tell Olivia that her father’s jawbone has been found, meaning that he isn’t on the run—he’s dead. Plus, it seems likely that he died the same night her mother did, meaning he might not have been the killer. Olivia discovers that his immediate family is holding a funeral, so she goes back to where she grew up to attend. Thus begins a new chapter in Olivia’s life, which includes a new house (incidentally, it’s the one she grew up in with her grandmother), new neighbors (an old friend of hers who doesn’t know who she really is), and a 14-year-old case being reopened.

Craving justice for her family, Olivia decides that she must be the one to discover what happened to her parents. So gradually, she gets closer to her family and her parents’ friends, although they don’t know who she is, and even joins forces with a cute boy named Duncan to crack the case. She gets hypnotized, she researches, she goes to the woods where the deaths occurred to find out the truth of that night; but the real truth, when she discovers it, is like nothing she could have ever imagined.

Quick Facts

  • Author: April Henry
  • Pages: 229
  • Genre: Young adult, mystery, thriller
  • Ratings: 4.5/5 Barnes & Noble, 5/5 Books-a-Million
  • Release Date: May 3, 2016
  • Publisher: Square Fish

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if . . .

  • you’ve read and enjoyed books like One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, Trash by Andy Mulligan, or the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness.
  • you’re a fan of mysteries, murder mysteries, and thrillers, especially those that reel you in quickly and go down easily.
  • you’re interested in the habits of killers or psychopaths and want to know why these people do what they do.
  • you have unfinished business from your childhood that you wish could be resolved.

All my life, I’ve known what I am. The daughter of a victim and a killer. When I looked in the mirror, sometimes I thought I could see them both—the cowering and the rage.

— April Henry, “The Girl I Used to Be”

Reviews

  • “Henry has carved a welcome niche for herself in young adult literature, thanks to her great instinct for intriguing plots, likable characters, and fast-paced action. The short chapters with cliff-hanger endings, not to mention the juicy plot, will keep readers engaged to the end.” —Booklist
  • “A fast-paced and engaging read, this is a strong choice for readers of mysteries and thrillers. The conclusion is reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, as both protagonists learn chilling truths about themselves and those close to them.” —School Library Journal
April Henry, the book’s author

April Henry, the book’s author

The Takeaway

For me, The Girl I Used to Be was an entertaining, fun read. It took me away from my surroundings for a while and introduced me to a new genre that I don’t often read. With that said, it wasn’t spectacular, either. There were times where the story was dry, and the dialogue and characterization of certain people sometimes seemed unrealistic. I think that if I were younger, I would have enjoyed the book more—so for (pre)teens who like a good ol’ murder mystery, you’ve got my vote to add The Girl I Used to Be to your bookshelves.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.