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Young Adult Fiction 96
intriguing YA thriller/horror
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FLAWLESS GIRLS is a haunting YA thriller about societal expectations and what it means to be a girl. The Alarie girls are famous - they are politician's wives and socialites who never have any societal doors closed to them. The finishing school is not one girls can apply to, but it receives the most distinguished girls into its halls. Isla and Renata have been granted admittance through their grandmother's contacts. Their Abuela wants them to move through society easily without the challenges that plagued particularly Isla's childhood.

However, when they arrive, Isla is taken aback by the girls there, feeling that something is wrong. She leaves while Renata stays, having a big fight on her way out. Although Renata writes to her, Isla cannot bring herself to respond. When Renata comes home, she is nothing like Isla remembered, and when she disappears into the night, Isla decides to return to Alarie to figure out what changed Renata and hopefully find her way back to her sister.

Alarie is a sparkling school with dark secrets that Isla will need to confront to understand what makes an Alarie girl and where she fits amidst it all.

What I loved: This was an absolutely haunting book that brings you into this creepy world of Alarie right from the start. Although the reader, like Isla, can feel that something is wrong, everything on the surface seems okay. At night, the nightmares come to life, leaving the reader questioning everything they thought they knew and what might be real amidst the glitter.

A major theme of the book is societal acceptance and what makes a girl/woman acceptable. If she must be demure, patient, and good at all times, what does she do with the human side of herself? Isla is learning about how to move amongst society while also questioning all these niceties and the ways she and the others must contort themselves to fit what is expected. While her grandmother wants what is best for her and her sister in their futures, this is juxtaposed with the honest and genuine way that they have been raised. To be accepted and move amongst the highest circles, they cannot be themselves and must be shrouded in rules and expectations. These themes are really intriguing and will resonate with girls who understand what the world expects of them, even if they don't always match it.

The story reads fast and has quite a few horror scenes that up the ante on the story and bring the suspense up to an eleven. The descriptions and emotions are fantastically done to bring the unreal feeling of it all and fear exploding out of the story. It was quite evocative and kept the pace feeling quite tense.

The characters were really intriguing, and I appreciated the rep with LGBTQ+ individuals and an intersex main character. The family bond and connection between Isla and her sister are strong, driving the story forward. I love a good story about sisterhood, and that is definitely one of the central themes here. Other characters were really intriguing as well, particularly Paz, who often speaks in riddles.

What left me wanting more: The story could be quite confusing at times, and it reads like it is told through a fog sometimes. This does add to the atmosphere, but it also left me rereading passages to see if I missed something and feeling a bit confused as though a step or two was missing.

Final verdict: FLAWLESS GIRLS is a chilling and evocative YA thriller that includes some really thought-provoking themes and a strong sisterly bond. Recommend for readers who enjoyed THE HONEYS, THE LEGACIES, and WHERE DARKNESS BLOOMS.
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