They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
A murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.
In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.
Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.
Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player–a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.
But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill is vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.
I’m not sure why, but this book felt like it was written to be a tv show. Maybe it’s the similarities to Pretty Little Liars, but something was just off. I liked the book, but I had a hard time remembering who each person was for a good half of the book. The characters didn’t feel different enough.
Jill is on scholarship to an expensive, elite prep school. This school has “The Players”. It’s basically a sort of secret society with a small number of kids from each class. It’s her senior year and they only have six instead of eight. Jill’s best friend, Shaila was killed at the end of their freshmen year. Shaila’s boyfriend, Graham, confessed. The only person who doubted his guilt was his older sister, Rachel. Jill is dating a player, but she obsesses about an older player, Adam. He’s away at Brown and she’s determined to go there the following year. Nikki and Jill got close when Shaila died. They were all best friends. Now Jill’s little brother is going to try to become a player, too. They have all the power. Players have past test answers that the teachers still use. Each of them can log in and cheat on any test. But the players are not all fun.
Jill references initiation night a lot. Throughout the year, the freshmen are given “pops”. They’re usually small things like carrying books, getting coffee, etc. But not all of them are and she realizes that girls have it way worse. Some of the stuff is sexual and a lot are crimes. But they keep doing them to be one of the kids everyone wants to be. Shaila died the night of initiation, but it becomes obvious that more happened that night. Jill finally wakes up and realizes how messed up it is. Rachel reaches out to her about Graham’s innocence and says that Shaila was cheating on him. At first, Jill refuses to believe it. But then she decides to look into things and it’s possible that Graham might be innocent. She also realizes that if he is, someone else she knows is guilty.
The killer was pretty easy to figure out, but I wasn’t sure on the why at first. I did enjoy Jill’s growth and her relationship with her brother. The book has pretty decent pacing. It was just the characters that lacked for me.
I gave this book 3 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.
Warnings: This book is more mature and there is a lot of talk of sex. There is teenage drinking, talk of attempted sexual assault, talk of an inappropriate relationship, a lot of hazing, misogyny and sexism, and a lot of rich, white privilege.
Have you read this? Is it on your TBR?