Secrets of Southern Girls

A tender, yet thrilling suspense novel about a young woman who uncovers devastating secrets that will resurrect the people she lost and the lies she buried – perfect for fans of Diane Chamberlain and Ellen Marie Wiseman

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back.

 Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

 When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

I was intrigued by the premise so I went in with high hopes. Harrigan overall seems to have a great talent at writing through vivid descriptions that really make you feel like you are there. The downside though is in her dialogue writing.

 She would be well deserved in having people act out her dialogue as though they’re in a play so she can hear how disparate and stilted it often sounds then rewrite once she can get it to sound like people are having a true conversation.

 As it stands now, if no setting was given and you just had people up on a stage using only her dialogue the play would crash and burn in dress rehearsals with theater goers demanding they be compensated for their time. I’m not normally so harsh in a review but it’s all the more frustrating when you have an author who so clearly knows how to write but fails in the endeavor of conversation and this somehow was not picked up in the editing process. It’s so unrealistic and socially awkward but if this is how the author meant it to be there is nothing within the context of the story that gives rise to explaining why.

Repeatedly changing perspectives can work, I’ve read a few books lately where doing this actually made the book absolutely amazing because it added a depth to the story that would not otherwise have existed. However, in Harrigan’s book it doesn’t quite give the same effect and in fact takes away from the story because it seems unnecessary to the point of confusing at times.

There isn’t very good characterizations either. I like being able to create a character in my head, especially if the book is turned into a movie then I can see how well the actor matched up to what I had but in this book there is little to nothing to give me a basis to work with. It’s hard to connect when you have nothing to hold onto. The way she writes her characters, you could just randomly pick people off Times Square and they’d all fit.

The diary inclusions need serious work. Harrigan was a teenage girl once, surely she remembers what she was like, what she would’ve written and how she would’ve described things but these entries don’t reflect that. I just don’t buy that these were written by a teenager in the midst of teen angst who is dealing with the emotional rollercoaster that is going on during this time in a girl’s life.

The way she writes about Reba’s view on the KKK seemed completely unbelievable especially since Harrigan is from the south and should know better. I’ve lived all over the world but went to high school in North Texas and learned about the KKK inside of my first few months. I highly doubt Reba, who has spent her life encased in this culture, would actually be surprised about anything to do with racism. 

I think there is a lot of promise here but Harrigan needs a more strict editing process to clean up the dialogue and smooth out the fake realism. 

Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to review this.

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