BOOK REVIEW: They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

"They say only the good die young, but that's just a line in a stupid song we used to sing. It isn't real. It isn't true. I know that because Shaila Arnold was so many things --brilliant and funny, confident and wild. But honestly? She wasn't all that good."

I have had many disappointments in relation to book releases this year. Let me preface this review by stating that Jessica Goodman's They Wish They Were Us was not one of them. Rather, it exceeded my expectations, and left me eager for the coming TV adaptation, The Players' Table.

Jill Newman isn't like her classmates at Long Island's prestigious Gold Coast Prep. She doesn't come from money, or have the ability to hop to the Hamptons or hideaway in a luxe Manhattan penthouse when she needs a break from Gold Coast. What she does have, however, is The Players. Initiated into the not-so-secret secret society as a freshman after a year of {torturous} hazing playfully known as pops; Jill has finally made it to the Players top tier. As a senior, she'll have the chance to call the shots and right all of the wrongs that the Players have done over the years - including taking their group of eight down to a group of six. About that...

During Jill's year of initiation, she was surrounded by seven other classmates all vying for spots in the Players Club: Nikki, Shaila, Graham, Quentin, Henry, Marla, and Robert. Some were her nearest and dearest {Shaila}, and others she hardly knew. On the night of initiation, however, two were ruined: Shaila was found dead, and Graham, her devoted boyfriend, admitted guilt. In the blink of an eye, multiple lives changed forever. Outgoing Shaila was carted off in a bodybag, frozen at 15; Graham was shipped away to a {posh} juvenile detention center; and Jill was left, a shell of her former self - but a Player. On the night of Shaila's death, Jill and Nikki form an unbreakable bond that has followed the two over the years; but a blast from the past is about to change the Players forever as they know it.

Rachel Calloway was once queen of the Players. But then her brother, Graham, was charged with the murder of Shaila Arnold, and she disappeared from Gold Coast. Now she’s returned. Or, at least, her voice has. When Jill receives an unexpected text from Rachel, proclaiming that Graham is innocent, Jill is skeptical. But when she’s asked to partake in clearing his name, she’s in. Sick of seeing her baby brother, Jared, morph into a Player {and alternate version of himself} during his initiation year has pushed Jill over the edge – as has Nikki’s blatant abuse of power as this year’s Player Queen. So much so that Jill quits the illustrious club, and changes sides. Now she’s on a mission to capture Shaila’s real killer, before the killer catches her.

Cliched, predictable, a little farfetched…They Wish They Were Us is all of these things. But even for the person who grew up on the Upper East Side with Gossip Girl whispering in their ear; or the readers who pored over the pages of Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars tales, attempting to unmask A, They Wish They Were Us offers an escape – a chance to dive into a world full of beauty, privilege, and scandal.

While Jill Newman is a feisty, brainy, determined feminist her character oftentimes falls flat, and pales in comparison to her buried bestie, Shaila Arnold. Like Alison DiLaurentis before her, Shaila shines bright like a diamond within the pages – captivating the reader with each appearance, and leaving one longing to have seen her in life, not just immortalized in death. Though certainly not the kindest of characters, Shaila steals the show time and time again, in the same fashion as Shepard’s Ali.

Likely you will unravel the mystery before Jill; but that’s okay. Come for the glitz. Come for the glamour. Stay for justice to prevail.

Star Rating: ****



ellie said...

Awesome review! I will definitely keep this one in mind! Love your thoughts on the book!

Caitlin'nMegan said...

This looks really intriguing!

Carefully Listening said...

Wonderful review! A great post to end the year!

Ananka said...

Sounds interesting this one :-D

Happy New Year :-D

Why Girls Are Weird said...

This sounds SO GOOD.

Mica said...

Sounds like an interesting book and it's great it impressed you, even if crime/thriller books like this aren't my kind of book.

Happy new year! Hope 2021 is off to a good start for you :)

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