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“What’s wrong with me? I might seem like the ideal student . . . the good girl and the high achiever. But I realized something just now: it’s not ambition, not entirely. It’s fear. Because I don’t know who I am when I’m not working . . . Who am I between the projects and the assignments when there’s nothing to do? I haven’t found her yet and it scares me. Maybe that’s why, for my senior capstone project this year, I decided to solve a murder,” Pip Fitz Amobi. – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #1
by Holly Jackson
AR Test, Strong Female Character
Everyone in Fairview thinks they know what happened: Andie Bell, the pretty and popular high school senior was murdered by her then-boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. Five years later, Pip is not convinced that Sal is guilty. There are too many unanswered questions: Why was Andie’s body never found? Why would Sal kill Andie? Why would Sal kill himself?
While the case has officially been closed, all Pip sees are loose ends. With the help of Sal’s brother, Ravi, Pip tries to unravel the secrets of what happened in Fairview five years ago. Pip insists that Sal is innocent. Pip’s investigation becomes more than just a school project, putting not only herself but those who she loves in danger.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a suspenseful, thrilling read that has short digestible chapters and tons of twists and turns. Jackson uses an interesting style of storytelling that combines a traditional third-person narration with journal entries from Pip’s point of view, interviews, police transcripts, maps, text messages, and much more. Oscillating between each point of view gives interesting insights into Pip’s character. Pip is a headstrong and determined young girl, who seems like she has her life fully put together, but she is far from that. Readers will relate to Pip who, as a teenager entering into adulthood, does not fully know who she is as a person or what she wants to do with her life.
Pip recognizes the racial bias that may have played a role in the suspected murder Sal faced. For example, when interviewing the reporter, Stanley Forbes, who heavily covered the original story, he explains to Pip “it’s always the boyfriend or the ex-boyfriend. Not only that Sal was Indian . . . [T]hey have different ways of life from us . . . They don’t treat women quite like we do.” Bullying and its effects are also discussed heavily, as the murder victim, Andie, was a notorious bully who caused real harm to her victims.
The book also explores sexual relationships in various forms, including consensual and non-consensual sex, as well as relationships between older men and underaged girls. Sexual assault and rape, along with common misconceptions surrounding these topics, are also discussed. For example, at parties, girls’ drinks are being spiked. When Pip confronts the person who has been doing this (after she found out he drugged and raped a girl) he attempts to justify it by saying “but, like . . . she didn’t say no.” There are also heavy themes of teenage drinking which in many ways is normalized throughout the book.
Overall, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is an entertaining, suspenseful story with interesting twists and turns that readers will not see coming. The story examines the actions of a group of teenagers, who are not always the good kids they are perceived to be. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder also tackles the difficult topics of death, grief, teenage drug use and other mature topics. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is perfect for mystery lovers who are ready to explore mature topics.
- Pip jokes that her friend is “the daughter of a porn star.” Her friend responds by saying her father “only did one nude photoshoot in the eighties.”
- Two of Pip’s friends are described as having “a failed fling last year that amounted to just four kisses and some drunken fumbling.” Later, it is revealed that they have recently kissed again.
- A photo is found showing a boy “wearing nothing but a pair of black underwear.”
- Andie claims that she has a sexual relationship with an older man, a janitor who works at the school and is about twenty. Andie blackmails the man’s sister with this information.
- When Pip goes to a party she observes the “dancers and the overenthusiastic kissers.”
- When carving pumpkins, a friend notes Pip’s pumpkin looks like “a vagina on fire.”
- Pip interrogates a suspect, Max, asking if he “drug[ged] and rape[d]” a girl at a party. He responds that he did put something in her drink “but, like… it wasn’t rape. She didn’t say no.”
- Pip finds out Andie has been having a sexual relationship with one of her teachers, Mr. Ward. He explains “it only happened twice.”
- Right before Pip’s press conference, Ravi, Sal’s brother who has been helping Pip with her investigation, “[leans] in to press his forehead against” Pip’s. The two then share a kiss.
- The basis of this book is Pip’s investigation of a murder and an apparent suicide. Sal, the suspected murderer, is believed to have killed himself by “taking a huge dose of sleeping pills, and plac[ing] a plastic bag over his head, securing it with an elastic band around his neck. He suffocated while unconscious.”
- The murder victim, Andie’s younger sister, Becca, is mentioned to have “been hospitalized for self-harming.”
- Pip is interviewing someone who knows about the drug dealer in the town. When Pip tries to leave, he “[grabs] her wrist to pull her back.” Then, she “grab[s] his wrist with her other hand and squeezed, digging her nails into his skin.” She is able to get away.
- Andie bullies another girl, Natalie, in her class, tricking her into recording and sending a topless video of herself. Andie posts this video online and “loads of other people were sharing it. The comments were horrible.”
- After a night of drinking, Max and a few of his friends went to a party. When it was over, Max “who was just as drunk as [the rest of the group], was driving too fast up the highway. It was like four a.m. and there were no other cars on the road. And then… this man comes out of nowhere . . . he was standing well back on the shoulder . . . [and Max] lost control of the car.” Though the man did not die, “there was so much blood . . . and his legs were bent all wrong.” The group covered up the accident.
- Pip’s dog is kidnapped and she is blackmailed for all the information in the case. The dog is found “in the river . . .drowned.”
- When Pip confronts Mr. Ward, the teacher Andie was sleeping with, he reveals that he and Andie fought. Mr. Ward “just pushed her to get her to stop. . . she fell back and hit her head on [his] desk. Hard. And . . .she was on the floor and her head was bleeding.” Andie was conscious and when he went to go get a first aid kit she disappeared. Thinking she had died, the teacher attempted to cover his tracks by killing Sal.
- In order to cover his crime, the teacher stole pills from Sal’s house, and forced Sal to swallow them. The teacher “held [a penknife] up to his neck.” When Sal “started to struggle . . . [the teacher] pinned him down and forced him to take more” pills. As Sal “lost consciousness, [the murderer] put the bag around his head.” After Sal died, the killer framed him for Andie’s murder, placing blood under his fingernails and Andie’s phone in his car.
- Months later, Sal’s killer thinks he saw Andie on the side of the road, “messed up on drugs . . . skinny and disheveled.” He kidnaps her and locks the girl in his attic. Unfortunately, this is not Andie but a troubled girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- After Andie escapes her teacher’s house, she walks home and is confronted by her sister, Becca. The two fight and Andie is cruel to her sister causing her to snap. Becca explains that Andie tried to push her out of the way and Becca “pushed her back . . .and [they] were both shouting and shoving and then . . . it was so fast . . . Andie fell back onto the floor . . . Her eyes were closed. And then she was being sick . . . her mouth was full, and she was coughing and choking on it. And [Becca] just froze.” Andie dies and Becca hides the body in a septic tank on a farm.
- Becca drugs Pip. Pip runs away dazed and confused. When Becca catches up to Pip, Becca pushes her. Pip “[falls] onto her back in the leaves and mud.” As the two fight “Pip’s head [is] smashed against a tangled set of roots, a snaking trail of wet down her face, the iron-bit of blood in her mouth.” Because of the drugs and her injuries Pip is in and out of consciousness. Becca gets on top of her and begins to strangle Pip, but Becca has a change of mind and retreats. At this moment Pip is rescued. Just as she is saved Pip falls into unconsciousness, but she is safe. This scene lasts over four pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Teenage and underage drinking is mentioned heavily throughout the story. It is talked about in passing, but many of the main characters also are described as drunk. Pip’s parents allow her to go to a party and drink. Her dad tells her, “I want you to remember to be, at least, a little irresponsible.”
- Sal takes his father’s sleeping pills. His father “was taking phenobarbitals for his insomnia.”
- In order to find out who is selling drugs, Pip talks to someone who has drugs at a party. He rolls them a joint, pulling “out a small baggy of weed and a packet of rolling papers.” Pip pretends to take a few drags.
- Andie sells drugs, including “weed, sometimes ecstasy, mephedrone, ketamine . . . and Rohypnol.” (Rohypnol is commonly used as roofies).
- Pip finds out that there are “instances of drink spiking happening at . . . house parties.”
- When Pip asks to be excused from the dinner table, her father jokes “some people have to worry about their kids rushing off from dinner to inject heroin into their eyeballs. Be thankful it’s homework.”
- After she was drugged and raped, Becca wakes up and doesn’t know “what happened or with who.” Becca asks her friend to go with her to get “the morning-after pill.”
- Profanity is used often. Profanity includes shit, asshole, fuck, bitch, and slut.
- “Scum Family” is spray-painted on the house of the suspected killer.
- After a friend’s breakup, someone says, “Boys are dicks.”
- A girl says her dad “married the whore like right after the divorce” (referring to the woman he was cheating with).
by Mikaela Querido