I am so excited to write today’s post because not only is it another collaboration between my friend Charlie and I, it is also going to be a review of my favourite books I’ve read so far this year!
Charlie and I wanted to do a buddy read for one of our collaborations and ended up picking ‘A Good Girls Guide to Murder’ by Holly Jackson. We picked this months ago because it was one of the few books that was on both of our TBR’s. Originally we were just going to be reading the first one, but then we both loved it so much and timed our buddy read incredibly well because the second book (‘Good Girl, Bad Blood) came out just a week or so after I’d read it. Charlie very kindly sent me a copy of the second book that he had pre-ordered for me and we decided to include the sequel in this post too!
Needless to say, we both adore the AGGGTM series so far and you can be assured that we will be reading the next book when it comes out next year, but for now let’s talk through all my thoughts on the books.
If you want to read Charlie’s opinions, then you can check out his blog post here: https://halfhidecharlie6.wixsite.com/charlietodd
To start off I wanted to give you all my non-spoilery thoughts, so if you haven’t read it then you’re still safe to keep reading. I will warn you when I’m about to get into spoilers and leave a big gap, so there’s no chance of being spoiled.
So now for my non-spoiler thoughts…
I gave both books 5/5 stars and I absolutely flew through them. I read AGGGTM during the OWLS Readathon, so you can watch my live reaction to finishing it in the vlog: I started reading it before bed with the intent to just get started so that I could more easily pick it up again tomorrow, but then it was midnight and I’d finished it…!
I literally COULD NOT put it down. I mean you really couldn’t have paid me to stop reading because I just had to know what happened next. The great thing about Holly Jackson’s writing is that she manages to lead you down all these paths and then just when you think you know who did it, there’ll be another twist.. It means that even if you’re someone who always guesses the plot twist (like myself) you will still never see it coming because the withholds enough information to keep you guessing. I truly felt like I was looking over Pip’s shoulder the whole time.
Really I’d have to say the writing and the way Holly Jackson left you second guessing yourself the whole way through was really what kept me reading until the early hours of the morning, but honestly there were so many strong parts to her story.
I found the characters to be so realistic in the way the behaved and reacted to certain situations and specifically felt like the family and friend dynamics were really well written. I think some people may disagree with me on the family front because on the whole Pip’s (the main character) family are very relaxed. I reckon a lot of people will find this unrealistic; however, I felt it was spot on because Pip is a very well-behaved, straight A, goody-two-shoes (much like yours truly) and because of it she gets away with a lot more. Her parents are relaxed and lets her do more or less what she wants, provided she uses her common sense, which is pretty much how my house operates. I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone – or indeed most people – but I think considering that Pip is very trustworthy and has a great reputation anyway, it is believable that her parents would be relaxed. She is also 17 in the book, so practically an adult.
I think the friendship dynamics in the multiple different friendship groups was also very realistic. I can’t say too much about it here because it would get rather spoilery, but just know that I think Holly Jackson did a good job there. I also think she portrayed the schools well with the parties that people went to and the students all knowing about a lot of things that the adults are completely oblivious too. I found that this was very much the case in my own secondary school (not that I was ever invited to one of those parties mind you!), but I was aware they were happening and there were plenty of things that all students knew that the teachers didn’t.
The final non-spoilery thoughts I had are going back to the structure again. Pip is investigating an old missing persons case throughout the book, so there is a lot of information that the reader needs to know, which Holly Jackson chose to display through ‘logs’ that Pip had written herself to try and figure it out. I thought this was a clever way of giving the reader all the information without info-dumping within the story.
And thus ends my non-spoilery thoughts.
IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT THEN STOP READING NOW
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Spoilery thoughts
All the non-spoiler people gone? Good.
Now…. WHY DID SHE HAVE TO KILL THE DOG!?!?!?!?! As you can tell, I am a little upset that Pip’s poor dog Barney had to die and while I agree that a death of someone close to Pip really drove the danger home and that the dog was the best target since it wouldn’t affect her life too much I still feel like there is an unspoken rule that you don’t kill the dog.
I just needed to get that out, but now let’s talk about Ravi and Pip’s relationship because I felt it was one of the best written slow burns I’ve read in a while (in contemporary at least). From the start you could really feel the chemistry between them and watching it grow as the book went on, especially as they started to unravel the mystery of Sal and Andie (Sal was Ravi’s older brother, so it was personal) and everything started to get messy.
I also feel that Pip is a great character. I love pretty much all the characters and I think they’re incredibly well written, but I don’t have time to do a detailed analysis of each person, so let’s just talk about Pip for now.
As you probably know by now, I’m Autistic, which means I have a very obsessive personality, am very observant where others aren’t and can also be a little insensitive now and then. Mainly thought I just don’t react emotionally the same as other people, which is seen as insensitive. The point of me telling you this thought is because I actually saw a lot of myself in Pip. Pip wasn’t written as Autistic and some of the traits I just mentioned aren’t exclusive to Autism, but I still felt that I really related to her. I am also one of those annoying, hardworking students who also seems to get top marks without too much stress. I am a huge goody-two-shoes (or at least that is my reputation anyway) and I get away with an awful lot because of it, as well as having an incredibly obsessive personality, which we really see in Pip throughout both books.
I think my favourite thing about Pip though is her reactions to the situation. Her inability to stop until the case is solved, her gut instincts and the way she pushes through even though she’s been threatened multiple times is really what made me fall in love with her. I am very much the same in how I behave. I’m very emotional and intuitive in terms of understanding what other people and feeling and thinking (like Pip), but I’m also a tad ruthless in handling those emotions – especially when they’re my own. I am also a big believer in the phrase “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” and Pip is pretty much the human embodiment of that phrase.
I think some people might see this choice of characterisation a little weak or unrealistic, but like the family dynamic, everyone is different and for me I found Pip to be perfectly real.
I’ll be talking more about Pip and how the story develops when we move onto ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’, but first I wanted to mention that this series gives me a very strong Scooby Doo vibe. It is set in a small town and while I live in the opposite of a small town, my grandparents do, so I’m aware of the whole ‘everyone knows everyone’ dynamic. Having the books set in a small town was a really strong move in my opinion because it makes easier to make it realistic (of course Pip would know her way around and know a lot of people), but it also adds so much suspense and drama since the killer could literally be anyone, and quite often people they know well, as is seen at the end of the first book. Her small town has so many secrets and the small size means that they all interlink in some way, which makes for a far more thrilling and interesting story, as well as some great plot twists.
Good Girl, Bad Blood – Spoilery thoughts
I’m going to talk a lot about Pip again, but before I get started on that, I want to talk about Max Hastings. He is in the first book mostly and is mixed up in all sorts of ways, but the bottom line is that he is a serial rapist. In the second book he is on trial and…. He gets of scott free.
I had to put the book down at this point and scream into my pillow a little just like Pip did really because while I sort of knew that would be the outcome, it doesn’t make it any less terrible. Unfortunately, this is a very real thing that happens every day because the justice system worldwide is very much biased in the favour of straight, white, cis men and I will be forever angry about it. It is SO NOT FAIR that he got off completely scott free because he is rich and white and played it up, but it is a fact that it happens too damn often.
I liked the realism of it because I feel like him actually getting the punishment he deserved would have been very unrealistic, but the great thing that came from it for me was Pip’s character development that came from it. This was really a turning point for her. She became friends with Nat (someone who had previously despised her and was one of Max’s victims) over it, which I think was a nice touch. I like that Holly Jackson chose to make the two girls friends at this point rather than any other because they bonded over something that is so familiar to every woman worldwide and while Max shouldn’t have gotten off, it made for a very powerful moment between the two of them.
The other thing that really changed after Max got off was Pip’s attitude. Throughout the first book and most of the second we see her battle with her goody-two-shoes reputation and wonder why she can’t put the cases down. We also see her use some slightly less goody-two-shoes methods to get the information she needs, quite serious blackmail being one of them. She fought against her more ruthless side up until this point, but when she found out about Max she lost it and vandalised his house, which was very satisfying to read and I imagine she felt the same way when she did it too.
I personally really loved that Holly Jackson chose to take Pip’s character in this direction because I think it is realistic to expect that uncovering the secrets and being involved in the things Pip had been would bring out different parts of you, but also because I really relate to Pip. I’m no investigator like Pip, but I also had a very goody-two-shoes reputation in school (and still do since I’m at college now) and I got away with an awful lot because of it. However, eventually I realised how much I hated my school and had really just had enough, so I started to do exactly what Pip did and fight back. I dyed my hair bright red for starters (which was *technically* a natural hair colour and therefore within the school rules, but they hated me for it anyway) and I began to use my intelligence for a few somewhat snarky comebacks when the teachers pissed me off. Basically I stopped pretending I gave damn and did as I pleased, but in such a way that I couldn’t get told off for it.
My personal rebellions aside, I feel that Pip’s character development is really excellent in Good Girl, Bad Blood. She really starts to question who she is, rebel against her reputation and accept that nothing is black and white, so she can rebel and still be ‘good’ over all. We also start to see some more raw emotions from her as she starts breaking down those barriers and the reputation she’s had for so long.
I think Holly Jackson did a really good job with the sequel. Sequels can sometimes feel a little disconnected, but it picked up right where the last one left off, the character development in Pip was especially fantastic, as well as her friend Cara, who was obviously deeply affected by her dad being found guilty in the first book and even in some of the side characters too.
Specifically, some of Pip’s friends from the first book turned on her, as well as quite a few people at school, because of social media and rumours that had been flying around, which is very common at schools. All it takes is one rumour and the whole school will turn their backs on you (that was my experience at school anyway) and I think Holly Jackson portrayed that quite well. Friends tend to drift and show more of their true colours when things get hard as well and Pip definitely wasn’t having an easy time and that sad fact was definitely shown.
The final thing I want to talk about is just how intricately crafted the stories are. They must have taken so long to plan out because there isn’t a single detail that I felt was overlooked. Every single tiny thing that was mentioned became relevant at some point and that same thing stood across both books as well, so characters and behaviours that were noted on in the first book, but weren’t particularly relevant at the time, became essential in the 2nd book. Since I had read the first book and knew more of what I was looking for in the second I thought I might be able to predict the ending better, but boy was I wrong. Holly Jackson’s crafting of her mystery was so flawless that I could never have guessed the outcome, whilst still be perfectly believable. I also noticed a couple of small details that were explicitly mentioned in the second book that didn’t become relevant, so I’m thinking they might be important in the 3rd one, but we’ll have to wait until next year to find out…
Clearly I adore Holly Jackson and her books and I’ve gone on long enough, so I won’t go on for much longer.
I can’t wait for the 3rd book to come out and I am already planning a 24 hour readathon when it does, so I can re-read the first two and then read the 3rd, which I will 100% be vlogging and reviewing as well, so stick around to make sure you don’t miss that! I can’t wait to find out what happens to Pip next because there are still so many unanswered questions!
Have you read AGGGTM? If you have PLEASE talk to me about it down below or over on my Instagram: @theoriginalbookdragon because I adore it so much and if you haven’t then order yourself a copy and get reading because I promise you it will be the best book you read this year!
Goodbye for now!
Over and Out