Bookshots: 'Those Girls' by Chevy Stevens
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Chevy Stevens, the pen name of Rene Unischewski, a Canadian thriller writer. Her first novel Still Missing, which came out in 2010, was a New York Times bestseller.
Plot in a Box:
Three sisters go on the run. Bad things happen. Time passes. Revenge is enacted.
Invent a new title for this book:
What Goes Around Comes Around
Read this if you liked:
Andrew Vachss, Harlan Coben, Jodi Picoult
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Dani, Courtney and Jess Campbell, teenage sisters and survivors.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
The story is split between the girls on the run as teens and their later lives as adults in Vancouver. In a movie version, relative unknowns would take the teen roles, the adult parts being saved for the big names, so I’m going to make my life easier and nominate actors for the characters as adults.
Dani (later called Dallas): Catherine Zeta Jones
Courtney (later called Crystal): Cameron Diaz
Jess (later called Jamie): Drew Barrymore
Setting: would you want to live there?
Those Girls is set in British Columbia and specifically Vancouver, but one of my few criticisms would be that it lacks much of a sense of place: you could relocate the action to any rural hinterland combined with large metropolis without needing much of an edit. That said, although Canada gave us Justin Bieber, it also gave us Ryan Gosling, so sure I’d give it a go.
What was your favorite sentence?
‘You’re those girls,’ he said, surprised.
The Verdict :
OK, I realize that a comparison to Jodi Picoult might not have you all running at hyperspeed to the nearest bookshop to grab a copy of Those Girls, but trust me, you should, because yes this is a commercial book written in a commercial style, and yes this is a book which has that Picoultian sense of giving you a story straight from the vaults of 48 Hours or Dateline or a Dr Phil special investigation, but this is also a book which is the kind of ruthlessly engineered page turner that ten seconds into the read, your eyeballs are so connected to the print that it would take an expert surgical team many hours of painstaking work to pry them loose.
Which is where my comparison to Harlan Coben comes in. Coben, who also seems to get his inspiration from the weirder fringes of the true crime beat, knows how to make a story stick to your brain the way burned egg sticks to a pan. If you dig Coben, you’re going to dig this book. If you wish Coben could marry Piccoult and the two of them could make tiny baby books together then you’re really going to dig Those Girls.
I dug Those Girls but for a third reason which has to do with the first author I name above and that is Andrew Vachss. Vachss writes Cobenesque page turners with an economy of style that would make Robert B Parker weep envious tears, but as he happens in his day job to be an attorney who works in child protection, his subject matter comes from a far darker place than most of us care to visit when we’re looking for entertainment. You read Vachss’ stories with your eyes squinted half shut, wishing the world was a better place, and Chevy Stevens, while not the stylist Vachss is, gave me a story in Those Girls with the same subliminal sense of outrage hovering over every page. What happens to Those Girls is so horribly plausible that you can read it as a simple page turner and enjoy it just for that, or you can read it the way I did: as a page turner, but one that also leaves you sadder and wiser about what life is like for the less lucky amongst us, those people like Those Girls.
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