**I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review. Written on July 17, 2017.
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
To be published by Simon & Schuster on August 1st, 2017
ARC eBook edition, 368 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-50114-437-0
Content Warnings: Domestic violence, pedophilia, stalking, animal death.
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
I haven’t really been looking forward to writing this review, because I have so many conflicting feelings and am not sure I’ll convey them properly–but hey, it’s worth a shot. There will be some spoilers in this review, as that is the only way I can properly discuss my thoughts.
The first thing that struck me was how lyrical the writing was. Kukafka has quite a way with words. Regardless of the content, each sentence seemed to flow beautifully and at times the book felt more like poetry than prose. For most of the book, I had on an ambient playlist in the background which only served to reinforce how beautifully written it was.
The second thing that struck me was how uncomfortable I felt about Cameron, who was clearly a stalker. Cameron is portrayed as innocent, well-meaning, lovesick, and mentally ill. He obsessively watches Lucinda at night and draws picture after picture of her. It’s clear he means her no harm, but he is still an extremely unsettling character and I felt very uncomfortable with the portrayal of stalking in this book–none of the other characters seem to care at all and it is never damned in any way. Cameron also makes multiple negative judgments about women’s bodies that make me extremely uncomfortable and are seemingly without purpose.
Russ is a weak-willed puppet of a police officer. His character development does make him somewhat redeemable, but he covered up the assault and battery that his former partner committed on a young woman, which really doesn’t put me in his corner. There are a lot of instances in this book that demonstrate the ability to love someone in spite of what they’ve done and I think this is meant to be one of those, but I dislike the way it was handled. Russ covers up Lee’s crime because he’s in love with him, we’re led to believe that Lee committed this crime because something happened between Russ and Lee. I don’t love the implication that internalized homophobia caused a man to beat a woman to a pulp because he almost held another man’s hand. I understand that all the characters are morally grey, but we already have enough poor portrayals of lgbtqia characters and I’m not psyched to see more.
Jade was the only main character I could even stand. She had plenty of faults and was imperfect, but had committed no crimes I could not forgive. Her screenplays were random and kind of annoying, but I understood their purpose. She was also voyeuristic, but in a far more acceptable way. I didn’t love her hatred of all other girls, but she seemed to hate everyone indiscriminately, so I gave her a pass on that.
Choosing a star rating was extremely difficult here. I wanted to give it two stars, as I was constantly making faces and shifting around uncomfortably while I read. But I think that discomfort was part of Kukafka’s intent. I don’t love what she used to achieve it, but I can appreciate that she’s a great writer. So I give her three stars for fantastic writing, subtracting the last two for content.