Hattie Hoffman, a lively and gifted senior at Pine Valley High School is found stabbed to death in an abandoned barn. As we get to know Hattie it is clear that she has always been a people-pleaser, but who is she really? Does she even know who she is or what she wants? And who would have killed such a bright girl who went to great lengths to be everything they wanted her to be?
Sometimes I really hate reading from a teenagers perspective. Are they really that cringe-inducing at that age or are authors just awful at stereotyping them? Probably a heavy dose of both, honestly. I also cringed because this book is set in a small Midwestern town and it plays on so many small Midwestern town stereotypes. I’m from a small farming community like the one in the book and I just couldn’t stand seeing a place represented like this. It just felt like a city person’s first thought about what country life is like. While some of these stereotypes ring true, seeing so many in one novel got nauseating. Adults are clueless and often afraid of technology. The characters had names like Bud, Henrietta, and Winifred. Men are all “men’s men” and all women are hardened and strong country-folk. The town sheriff was a goody-goody Andy Griffith cardboard cut-out to boot. And, for a while, it looked like the murder mystery was going to follow a pretty big trope. I almost put the book down. Unsurprisingly, there was a slight twist, but I was never surprised about where the story went which is what I truly disliked the most.
So, stereotyping aside, this was simply an average read with a rather standard murder mystery plot. Hattie was probably the strongest part of the novel. If you haven’t read a lot from this genre, you might like it a lot more than I did. It is nothing too special, but I cared enough to finish it.