Good Girls Don’t Die by Christina Henry
Titan, £9.99, Paperback
Reviewed by Melody Bowles
Good Girls Don’t Die is a compelling thriller set in four parts. Each of the first three parts centres around a different narrator trapped in a world they find horrifyingly familiar. It is an extremely well-written and put-together book, which left me with plenty to think about.
The book opens with Celia, who wakes up with a house, husband and daughter that aren’t her own. She can’t remember who she is, but it seems she runs a restaurant in a rural town. Celia does remember that she likes cosy mystery books, and the scenario she’s in seems reminiscent of a cosy mystery plot. Except, unlike the sanitised scenarios in her favourite books, the murder is horrifyingly real, emphasised by the grotesque description of the dead body she discovers. The book contrasts the blithe way cosy mysteries treat a death with Celia’s horror, dread and panic. It is an interesting deconstruction, especially coupled with the mystery surrounding Celia’s identity.
The next section is narrated by Allie and takes the reader through a standard slasher horror plot – teens in an isolated cabin in the woods are picked off one by one. Allie is much more self-aware about her genre knowledge than Celia. She remembers who she is and attempts to put her knowledge to the test by trying to circumvent the usual mistakes made by horror protagonists, with don’t split up being her main mantra. This knowledge makes her easy to sympathise with – it puts her on the same level as the reader. People commonly disparage slasher movie characters, but in this section, even though Allie has enough foresight to predict what’s coming, she still suffers as much as any other slasher character.
In the third section, Maggie is thrown into a Hunger Games-style challenge where participants fight to the death. “There will be no Katniss-ing this shit” is my favourite line in the book. Maggie makes it her aim to get through the game with no deaths, but other characters of course interfere with this goal. This section is about how difficult it is to keep the moral high ground in such a dangerous situation.
The novel’s last section is the most cliched part of the book in terms of the story’s villains and their motives. I left feeling the story had ended rather than concluded. The rest of the book was so self-aware and thoughtful that the last section felt hollow. Still, I enjoyed the rest of the book enough that the ending not hitting the mark didn’t bother me.
Read Good Girls Don’t Die for a thrilling yarn addressing the roles female characters take in different types of horror fiction and thoughtful reflections on the tropes and cliches ruling those genres. Most definitely read it if you’ve ever watched a horror film and thought about how much smarter you’d be than the protagonists!