Dead End Girls / Wendy Heard / Book Review

In one week, Maude will be dead. Or it will look that way, anyway. She's planned everything perfectly, down to the minute. There's no way to mess up now. In one week, she'll finally be free from her family, free to live how she wants. Free to be who she wants to be.


Before Maude can hammer the nail into her metaphorical coffin, her cousin Frankie spots the passports. Frankie knows the Maude is planning something, some way to escape, and Frankie won't let her go--not unless Maude will let her come with. Maude didn't plan for any witnesses and she didn't plan for any mistakes. But it's too late to give up now.


I enjoyed this book quite a bit more than She's Too Pretty to Burn--a book that was a tad too melodramatic for me. Don't get me wrong. This book has its fair share of melodrama. But I liked these characters better. They felt a bit more human, a bit less hyperbolic--even if there were too many coincidences within these pages. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. 


  • Body Positivity: This isn't a book about body positivity. Body positivity isn't featured obsessively in these pages--and Maude herself doesn't seem to care much. But in the opening scenes, when Maude's passive-aggressive mother is making snide remarks, it was refreshing to have a girl who was both perfectly content and perfectly confident in the face of such remarks. She knows her worth--and obviously, that's one of the reasons she wants to leave these toxic people behind, these people who won't respect her as she is. 
  • Frankie Flashbacks: I really loved Frankie's backstory, and I really loved the way it was incorporated through flashback chapters. Weaving the slow revelation of her own reasons to leave her life behind into the story adds a dimension to this duo and their plight that otherwise wouldn't have been there. Her story was also absolutely crazy (though I wouldn't expect any less from Wendy Heard), and I liked that, too. The execution, I think, is what made this work--even if it was perhaps a tad over-the-top.  
  • Rising Panic: A good thriller should always involve a rising level of panic. The increasing desperation of these characters and this situation comes through so clearly with each page turned. Even in the scenery--the transition from lush Hawai'i to arid and desperate-in-itself Las Vegas--shifts the mood. The growing sense of consequence and dead-end-approaching gets worse and worse as the hole these characters dig for themselves gets deeper and deeper--harder to escape and harder to break free. 


  • Step-Incest: It's a no from me. I liked these characters. I liked their chemistry, but I didn't like their set-up. They're not related, of course, but they're still step-related. They know each other from family functions way-back-when to the current day and age. And the fact that Maude was, from the beginning, considering having sex "for convenience" with her step-cousin is just... Um, no. Nope. 
  • Questions: I had too many questions throughout this about Maude, her connections, her knowledge. It felt a little made-for-TV. I know I was supposed to suspend my disbelief and just go along for the ride--and it was a fun ride--but I still found it hard not to ask questions. Just don't poke too hard at this one, I guess. It'll all come crumbling down if you do, but if you don't, you might just enjoy it. 
  • News Writing: Wendy Heard does a fine job with the narrative voice, but when the voice switches to be some sort of more "serious" writing, it sounds very off. This book includes a fair bit of news writing and news reporting, and these just sound... not professional. Heard's voice-y writing isn't quite right for the journalistic style, and when these more serious pieces of prose popped up, they broke me out of the story every time. It was like a rude awakening, they sounded so wrong, wrong, wrong. 


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐

Fans of Laurie Devore's A Better Bad Idea will appreciate this new desperate girl duo. Those who liked the dark turns of e. lockhart’s We Were Liars will appreciate these rich kid fugitives. 


Publisher: Christy Otaviano Books
Date: May 10, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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