The Girl in the Park
Publisher: Random House Children’s Book
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Source: Review Copy (via ARC tour)
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
When Wendy Geller’s body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,”Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled.” But shy Rain, once Wendy’s best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just “party girl.” As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick’s mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.
Rain is the shy girl in school, the one who only talks when absolutely necessary and who is very good at disappearing into the background. She was born with Cleft Palette and although she has had corrective surgery done and taken speech therapy, years later she still feels like the odd one out, the one all the other kids point at and make fun of because of the way she talks. So, to cope she has perfected the art of not getting noticed. Only one person made her feel like she wasn’t such a freak, her once best friend Wendy Geller. Wendy saw her like she was something special, something she wanted to be.
Wendy was a party girl, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who ended up in a private school, the one Rain attended, where most of the kids there were the sons and daughters of someone famous and definitely rich. Wendy was one of the few exceptions and as an exception she was also seen as a plague. The trailer trash girl who wanted to fit in so badly, she spent tons of time her first year trying to be accepted into the popular group. One girl noticed that she was trying too hard and brought that to her attention. That girl was Rain.
Rain and Wendy’s friendship grew for a while but eventually drifted apart. Wendy’s obsession with being part of the in-crowd and the anger she felt when she was cast away, turned her into the boyfriend-stealing slut of the school, so to say. Wendy found the perfect way to get back at the snooty girls in school. You don’t say hi back, I steal your boyfriend. It was that plain and simple in Wendy’s eyes. Not so for Rain, who really wanted Wendy for once to have her own boyfriend, and not someone else’s. Wendy eventually becomes fixated in getting this one guy Nico Phelps, also taken, and posts a video on Facebook promising the guy that she was going to get him. This public challenge became the talk of the school. The day of the party Rain and Wendy have a brief talk right before Nico shows up with his girlfriend. Not wanting to be around for the scandal that was about to get unleashed, Rain heads home and calls it a night. The next day the headlines are all over the place “Wendy Phelps, found dead in Central Park”, but who killed Wendy? Was it Nico because she wouldn’t leave him alone? Was it Nico’s girlfriend? Or was it one of the many girls that Wendy crossed by getting with their boyfriends?
As a contemporary mystery, this book was enjoyable. I felt at times that the pace of the book was slow and it did take me a while to get into it. I felt that there were holes with the way the police investigation was presented. How in the world could a key piece of evidence be confused for something else? Doesn’t the police take proper pictures and documentation? I also felt that these so called investigators were hardly doing any “investigating” and Rain was the one doing all the work. It just didn’t feel believable to me. Plot issues aside, I felt that the story was very heart warming, although I felt a stronger connection to the girl that died, Wendy, than the main character who is narrating the story. This I think is because Rain constantly flashes back to memories of the days she and Wendy were closer friends and I felt that Wendy, with all her flaws, was still a good loyal friend to Rain. I did feel bad for Rain when the other students were mean to her, pretending they couldn’t understand what she said, just to make her feel more inadequate. I was a bit disappointed that there was no romance in the book, since Rain does have a crush on someone but the romance never really develops.
All things considered, I did enjoy this book quite a bit, even if it frustrated me at times. I would give this book 3 stars. Maybe it just wasn’t my cup of tea as they say, but it could definitely be yours. The book was well and clearly written and the story is one that breaks your heart. I did get teary-eyed at the end when Rain reminisces and talks about how what happened to Wendy changed her life as well, move me it did.