Friday, February 9, 2018

R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa B Sheinmel, 2017

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When Eliza Hart, the most popular girl at Ventana Ranch boarding school, is found dead on the cliffs outside her dormitory, Ellie Sokoloff is determined to figure out what happened to her. After all, Eliza was Ellie’s childhood best friend.

Never mind that ever since Ellie arrived at school Eliza has spread terrible rumors about her, calling her a liar and a stalker, when all Ellie wanted to do was rekindle their old friendship. Or that Ellie’s claustrophobia limits where she can go and what she can do. Or that Ellie’s suitemate, Sam, is the only one who will help her . . . because to everyone else, Ellie looks like the top suspect.

Can Ellie clear her name and solve the mystery behind Eliza’s death? Her hunt for the truth will uncover secrets she never imagined, sending her deep into her own memories of her childhood with Eliza Hart.

New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel delivers a gripping mystery and a sensitive and moving examination of the secrets that can hold us back—and even destroy us.

(336 pages)


Oof.

I have definitely read more than my share of murder mysteries over the years, many of which had very gruesome deaths and terrible motives, but few if any of those books can match the sheer misery in R.I.P. Eliza Hart.

That's not to say that it's a miserable book to read - on the contrary, Ellie and Sam (who is a guy, by the way) share a sardonic sense of humor that keeps the book from becoming unbearably depressing. But at the same time, Sheinmel creates a suspenseful and gripping story which doesn't pull any punches.

It starts out straightforward enough, with the interestingly flawed protagonist (Ellie) trying to solve the sudden death of a classmate (Eliza) and clear her name from suspicion, but as the story goes on we learn more and more about the dark parts of Eliza's life that she had worked so hard to bury deep away from everyone. Eliza's tale takes many twists and turns, which I really wish I could discuss but won't because I don't want to spoil them. Suffice it to say that this is where the book jumps off the track of most other murder mysteries, and I believe it's better for it.

I can't even pretend to be qualified enough to know whether Sheinmel's handling of mental health was good or not, but from what I could tell it seemed very sympathetic and believable. I did think that her handling of suicide (which many suspected Ellie to have committed) was almost a little too sympathetic, though: I hope that no one actually struggling with suicidal thoughts reads R.I.P. Eliza Hart.

For the rest of us, though, it's a gripping and thoughtful read about life, death, and hiding yourself in plain sight. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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