Thursday 14 November 2019

Book Review: THE DEAD GIRLS CLUB by Damien Angelica Walters

Author: Damien Angelica Walters
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Read: November 2019
Expected publication: 10 December 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

A story in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic--and terrifying--consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Not putting any more of the blurb here as it gives too much away (in my opinion) - look it up on Goodreads if you like.

My musings:

Teenage girls. Witchcraft. An urban myth. A mystery that spans decades. Sound good? Well, let me put a personal disclaimer right at the beginning, because if you have read the blurb and are expecting a supernatural thriller full of hauntings and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, you may come away disappointed.

For me, THE DEAD GIRLS CLUB was more a coming of age story than a ghost story, and such was its appeal. If you are a woman, then you have been a teenage girl once, and you may or may not have gone through the “witchy” phase, a time in a girl’s life when the supernatural has an irresistible draw for you. The book is basically about four twelve-year-olds who become obsessed with the myth of the “Red Lady”, a bloodied ghost of a woman accused and cruelly slaughtered for apparently being a witch. Her ghost is now rumoured to make her terrifying comebacks to seek revenge and affect justice by filling her victims’ mouths with dirt and suffocating them. Soon the story takes over the girls’ lives and affects their friendships, until one fateful night one of the girls disappears ....

Walters tells her tale through two timelines and the eyes of Heather – then an almost teen, now an adult who is still looking for answers. Personally, I liked young Heather a lot more, and thought the author did a good job portraying the friendship dynamics between the four girls and the effects of mass hysteria that lead to an inevitable disaster. I also appreciated the author’s premise of a traumatised and abused young girl using a story about a supernatural phenomenon as a coping mechanism, which has been the topic of many a good tale (thinking Renee Denfeld for example). As the girls get deeper and deeper into the story of their terrifying witch, they experience things that they cannot fully explain rationally. Having gone through that phase as a child (after the death of my mother, i.e. also triggered by trauma), I could really see myself in those frightened children! I loved the inclusion of the urban myth in the story, and the way it came to life through the girls’ ever growing terror.

Adult Heather was a different thing altogether. I’m not sure how this person functions in life, because she obviously has some serious problems. Her voice was so manic and disjointed that it made for exhausting reading! This in itself was not a problem, because I imagined that Heather may be experiencing some mental health issues related to the incident in her childhood. However, without giving anything away here, the final conclusion and explanation did not fully satisfy me and left a lot of questions unanswered. I am very conscious of spoilers here, so I won’t go into detail except to say that the police investigating the missing girl’s disappearance must have been very inapt in their job by overlooking some very essential clues and facts – sorry, I just didn’t buy it. Cynical crime reader here! So whilst I was not too cut up about the lack of haunting (as some other readers in our buddy read group reported), the die-hard crime reader in me felt a bit let down in the end.


All in all, it was the “then” section of THE DEAD GIRLS CLUB that swept me along in its tide looking for the answers, eager to see how the girls fared. If you are interested in friendship dynamics between young girls and the psychological aspects of coping with trauma, then you will appreciate the author’s keen observations about tween friendships and that transition period between childhood and adulthood that leads to fear magnifying through mass effect as the girls are trying to deal with things they don’t fully understand.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Crooked Lane Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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