The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green

From debut author Amy K. Green comes a devastating tale of psychological suspense: a teen pageant queen is found murdered in a small New England town, and her sister’s search for answers unearths more than she bargained for.

Days after a young teenager named Jenny is found murdered, her small town grieves the loss alongside her picture-perfect parents. At first glance, Jenny’s tragic death appears clear-cut for investigators. In the murder of a former pageant queen from a safe and loving family, the most obvious suspect is a fan who got too close for comfort. But Jenny’s sarcastic, older half-sister Virginia isn’t so sure of his guilt and takes matters into her own hands to find the killer.

But for Jenny’s case and and Virginia’s investigation, there’s more to the story. Virginia, still living in town and haunted by her own troubled teenage years, suspects that a similar darkness lay beneath the sparkling veneer of Jenny’s life. Alternating between Jenny’s final days and Virginia’s determined search for the truth, the sisters’ dual narratives follow a harrowing trail of suspects, with surprising turns that race toward a shocking finale. 

Summary from Goodreads

To say that this ending was not a shock is to say that burning your tongue on hot coffee doesn’t hurt that much. Green gives us two POV’s: Virginia, an adult woman in her twenties who seems to be just drifting through life, and Jenny, Virginia’s younger half-sister, barely thirteen years old and struggling against the pressures of her peers and her parents. Jenny is also the dead girl, the death that has sparked the mystery, the inquiry into who would want Jenny dead.

The way this novel concluded was done in such a way that I am still unsure about how I feel about it a day later. I don’t know how I feel about the character’s decisions, especially Virginia’s, and I don’t know how I feel about, well, how I feel about.

What I do know is that the author, Amy K. Green, absolutely had to be deliberate and totally aware of what she was doing with the characterization of Virginia and other characters, and the way she ended the novel. The ending is not just a conclusion to a mystery. It’s also a commentary on what happens when girls are taken advantage of at such a young age that it overshadows the rest of their lives. And Green has written The Prized Girl in such a way that even with the shocking conclusion, it’s still rooted in reality. It still makes sense to who the characters are. You may not like their actions. But they make sense and you understand where they are coming from.

More than just a mystery about a dead girl, The Prized Girl is a heartbreaking commentary on trauma and how it effects our lives, and the lengths that it can make a person go in order to somehow survive – even when they don’t really want to.

I’m still just sort of stunned.

Because of the impact, I will give warning to potential sensitive readers: there are some scenes that discuss subject matter that may be triggering to certain traumas, including rape (statutory and otherwise), verbal, mental, and physical abuse, and some instances of self-destructive habits. But I think this novel carries an important message and, so, if you are interested in reading it, I do highly recommend it.

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