The second I read that this book was set to be like Gossip Girl crossed with One of Us Is Lying (although I haven’t read that one yet), I knew I needed to read this book. Huge thanks to Penguin Australia for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This novel is officially out NOW in Australia. I’m so happy to say that I definitely enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it – especially if you’re looking for a thriller book in this spooky season.
A murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.
In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.
Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.
Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player–a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.
But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill is vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.
Just the idea of American prep schools and scandals gets me jittery with excitement at the pure DRAMA that must ensue. They Wish They Were Us definitely delivered as we meet Jill, a member of a group that call themselves The Players. The Players are an elite group within Gold Coast Prep, an expensive private prep school. Being one of The Players means you don’t just become one of the cool kids but you gain privileges to get to you into the best schools, to pass all your tests and more perks that certify that you’re one of the people everybody envies. Unfortunately, being part of this group comes at a cost and in Jill’s first year, that included the death of her best friend Shaila during their initiation.
The book begins with Jill about to start her senior year with the other Players who are in her friend group, with all of them not actually being aware that she’s a scholarship kid and feels that she needs The Players to get into her dream college. As we read through the book, we get to see flashbacks that detail more about Shaila, their relationship as best friends, as well as how Shaila was with everyone else. Her death was blamed on her boyfriend, Jared, who supposedly killed her that night but Jill begins to suspect that perhaps it wasn’t him when she is reached out by Jared’s sister asking to talk. The plot follows Jill as she tries to maintain her grades, her status with her friends who shun the very idea that Jared may not be the killer while actually trying to figure out who killed Shaila.
This book honestly felt like the perfect combination of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Gossip Girl in terms of the elite group with the great connections and the understated luxury that is possessed and accepted as normal. Pretty Little Liars through the personification of Shaila as the beautiful, popular girl who died young and has stayed forever young, where we find out that she wasn’t always the nicest person and she was certainly hiding things too. I felt so much nostalgia from this and Jill very much reminded me of a young Blair Waldorf with slightly more morals and the embodiment of a strong, smart young woman who needs to get to the truth and will use anything to get herself a good future.
“It’s easy to convince yourself of something if you just pretend it’s the truth.”Jessica Goodman
The mystery thriller whodunnit part of the book took the main stage for Jill but I really enjoyed the other parts we got to see as well like Jill’s relationship with her brother and realising how dangerous The Players can actually be as she starts to face certain consequences. This novel had me on the edge of my reading chair because it felt so high stakes for her. I personally did not realise who the killer was until Jill herself figured it out and I loved that I didn’t see that coming at all!
The characters themselves weren’t super fleshed out but by the end, I was just happy that I could easily differentiate them. It’s always a bit daunting being introduced to a group or big cast of characters so quickly without much context. Jill herself, wasn’t an amazing or likeable character per se – being part of The Players meant she had accepted the immense privilege and the perks, not giving a second thought to the unfairness of it all because she had participated in so many horrible challenges to ‘earn’ her spot. But, what redeemed her character was that she started to realise how absurd, how unfair and how cruel people in power can be and that at the end of the day, she could at least help someone achieve a basic kind of freedom. Jill was also such a science nerd that I could relate to that part of her character as one myself.
I really enjoyed that it also solidified the idea that high school is high school; it doesn’t last forever and it’s not going to dictate the rest of your life either. I only wished that this book was slightly more captivating in its writing for some parts and that we got to see a bit more of the side characters and their stories but the plot itself was well-established and very driven!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s a great debut by Jessica Goodman. While it wasn’t super character-driven, I definitely enjoyed the plot – the writing was good and felt very fast-paced so I managed to fly through this book fairly quickly. I can certainly imagine this as being an amazing tv show or movie and I’m so glad that it is being adapted to the screen! I hope that in the adaptation, we get to see more storylines from the side characters and even more plot twists and drama. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to find TV show genres and quality like Gossip Girl and PLL – Riverdale was certainly a big miss for me.
Have you read this book yet? What do you think of YA murder mysteries/thrillers?
Until next time,