Jul 27, 2020

ARC Review--They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

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 is vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.

I won this ARC in a contest provided by the publisher. My review is completely honest and voluntary, I was in no way compensated for this review.

I went into Jessica Goodman's They Wish They Were Us expecting an edge of your seat, creepy thriller set in a preppy high school of the rich and elite. Thinking that the vapid and vain people were hiding dangerous secrets...but sadly, that's not what I got at all. My main issue was that I wanted a good creepy thriller mystery and instead what I got was what I felt like was a straight up contemporary read on the everyday lifestyles of the rich and elite students of Gold Coast prep. 

Jill Newman isn't quite typical student though, she's not of the overtly rich and famous, she's actually at the school on a scholarship. This year though, she's a senior and her and her best friends are finally the leaders of the Players. The super-super elite popular group that basically controls everything about the school and can literally cheat their way into the top colleges of their choice. I mean, seriously! Jill mentions how they all have an app that has all the test answers they'd ever need, what you need to write about in your entrance exams to get into this or that college. It was kind of disgusting. I mean, Jill admits to working hard and trying not to use the easy way outs all the time, but not "all of the time" is still "some of the time."

What continued to bug me was how these Players thought they were all so entitled to everything and I mean everything. Whatever they wanted, they got because they were Players. It was just so disturbing. Plus, when it came to recruiting new Players every year, students were subjected to gross and inhumane tasks in order to achieve the ultimate popularity and privileges.

Now I don't want all this to come off as Goodman being a bad writer, it just wasn't a lifestyle I cared to read about. It was just disturbing and disgusting. The things that Jill and her friends went through their freshman year was just so disgusting, and it was really only the girls who were subjected to the absolute worst. It was just wrong.

This book comes off as a contemporary read to me. Jill gets the first text that would suggest her best friend's murderer isn't really the murderer fairly early, within the first five chapters I'd say, but then all her friends tell her to let it go. So, she does. And then it's back to the literal everyday life of Jill Newman and her friends. Going from day to day, watching freshmen and other underclassmen subject themselves to ultimate humiliation to earn a spot on the Players team for future years to come. It was absolutely and utterly boring coming from a thriller reader's perspective.

It's not until you're past the 65% mark that Jill starts to tire of Player games and trials and thought maybe there was some validity to the claim that her best friend's murderer isn't who they all thought it was. PAST the 65% mark!!! I just read over half a book of watching a person go through their everyday life and it was the most boring thing ever! I was just so aggravated by this, because less than half the book was spent on looking into the mystery element of what I thought was going to be a mystery story!

Another thing that totally bogged me down with reading were the constant flashbacks Jill went through. I mean, I get that some of them might have been necessary, but not all of them. They were just so dull and it took you away from the moment in the present. Perhaps it was just the eARC formatting too, because these flashbacks didn't happen in a way where you could see that they were flashbacks and then you didn't really catch onto returning to the present. I think this was more of an eARC thing, but still, it made it really hard to follow the story-line.

Another gripe I have was Jill herself. In the book she had a very nice boyfriend among her circle of friends, but she didn't love him. Really, it seemed like she was just using him to make her crush--who was away in college and not even at her high school anymore--jealous. Adam was the one who recruited her to be a Player and subjected her to the humiliation trials in order to win her place among them. She fell in love with him from the moment she met him basically and secretly lusted after him her freshmen year and after he went to college she kept in touch with him here and there. Having a boyfriend was just easy, and expected for a Player apparently. What was worse, her boyfriend seemed to really care for her and she just strung him along knowing that one day they'd end things and she could be with her crush Adam. It just seemed cruel and heartless of her, and here we're supposed to be rooting for Jill as she's our heroine of the story. Her romantic decisions didn't sit right with me and made me like her even less.

So once we got up to that 70% mark or so, the mystery really started to thicken and get interesting! I had two suspects myself. One came up fairly early on, the other one around the midway point and and I can definitely say I sooooo knew whodunit! 

In the end, I will say that I was a bit disappointed with this one. I went in expecting a great thriller mystery and instead got a contemporary read that had an underlying mystery that needed solving that our characters eventually got around to solving in the end. Things felt rather resolved in the end-end, so I'm a little uncertain why Goodreads is showing this one as a series. I suspect it could be a possible continuation as if there's more that we don't know, or as the series' title suggest, it could involve a whole new cast of Players and mystery. Only time will tell, but I can honestly say that I likely won't be reading that one.

I still have another of Goodman's book on my TBR pile that I plan to read at some point. I won't say I am turned away from this author, but if this other book turns out to be a contemporary read with just a tiny mystery that needs solving, it might turn me away from her books for good. If you enjoy contemporary reads and are not opposed to mini mysteries, I would recommend They Wish They Were Us. If you love a good straight up mystery, well, don't expect much from this book.

Overall Rating 2/5 stars

They Wish They Were Us releases August 4, 2020

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