Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying with a dash of The Secret History in this slick, taut 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 vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.
They Wish They Were UsFeatured
Jill is now a senior and on top of the food chain. She has never forgotten Shaila, and when someone from her past contacts her to say that Graham didn't kill Shaila, the question becomes who did. While most of the book is about the Players, this mystery underlies the plot to add some suspense.
What I loved: This is a highly captivating read. The main theme of the book seems to be about hazing, why it is done, continued by those it hurts, and the power plays it serves. This was really thought-provoking and its persistence is interesting to examine, especially with regards to the roles people play in it and why they go along with it. There is also some interesting subtext about privilege.
The mystery of what really happened to Shaila keeps the book moving quickly. While I had a bunch of guesses (and one was correct), I appreciated that the answer was not obvious and it needs to be played out.
What left me wanting more: As a relatively small point, the beginning of the plot is somewhat hard to follow, as we switch between time and information comes slowly. This does speed up pretty fast though. There were also a lot of characters that can be a bit hard to follow at first.
Final verdict: Overall, THEY WISH THEY WERE US is an intriguing and captivating YA psychological thriller that not only seeks to solve a murder but also tackles hazing and privilege.