The Roanoke Girls, by Amy Engel

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the beloved beautiful Roanoke girls. What she slowly comes to realise though, is that being a Roanoke girls comes with a terrible legacy; the girls either run, or they die. After fleeing the homestead, Lane returns many years later to face up to the demons and secrets that her family hides.

The Roanoke Girls is a twisted, taboo-breaking thriller about one family’s twisted legacy. And twisted it most definitely is. I found myself so disgusted I wanted to hurl the book to the other side of the room, yet so intrigued I had to sit there and read it in one go.

It is disturbing but also so intelligent. It is the book’s subject that is so horrific, not Engel’s writing. She perfectly straddles the line between repelling the reader from the horrendous horror unfolding in the pages and making the reader so enthralled they can’t put the book down. She sets a cracking pace and slowly reveals integral secrets to the readers in the most enticing manner.

Hidden within the horrifying subject matter is the most tender love story. It’s not overpowering or cliche, but rather softens the rough edges and reveals a lot about human nature. It can be a little too obvious at times, but it doesn’t dim the desire to find out exactly what happens.

The Roanoke Girls won’t fit the bill for everyone and, while too horrendous to think about, it will be too real and raw for some. Tread lightly and take caution before diving in, but don’t be put off by the subject matter. Those who brave the nastiness of the Roanoke family will be rewarded with a gripping, beautifully written story that will take you on a real emotional journey.

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TITLE: The Roanoke Girls
AUTHOR(S): Amy Engel
PUBLISHER: Hachette
RRP: $37.99
ISBN: 9781473648371

Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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