‘Beware That Girl’ – Teresa Toten

Beware That Girl

It comes as little surprise to me that there are talks to turn this into a movie. Set against the background of an elite Manhattan school, we watch two girls – with plenty ┬áto hide – play a dangerous game, and it has all the characteristics of a tense film. Unfortunately, though I had the sense that this could have been a great book, it just didn’t do it for me.

The story is told through a split narrative. Sadly this meant that I never felt I got to know either character well enough to really care about them or what happened to them. On one hand we have rich girl Olivia, used to getting everything she wants, and then we have scholarship girl Katie. Both girls have their secrets, which they will do pretty much anything to protect. So far, so familiar.

During their senior year the girls meet Mark Redkin, a member of staff whom everyone seems to fall in love with. Superficially, he seems to be everything someone could want but it soon becomes clear that he is not quite what he wants everyone to think he is. From the first time we meet him, there are obvious signals that something pretty nasty is going to happen.

I found the setting and characterisation of this book largely responsible for my not really engaging with it. I don’t think that Kate, as a survivor of serious domestic abuse, would have been left in quite as isolated a position as she is, and Olivia is so clearly struggling with addiction and mental health issues that I’m amazed she was let into school without more careful monitoring.

The role that abuse played in this story was uncomfortable. The constant flashbacks to Kate’s life didn’t help me understand her better and felt more than a little gratuitous. And as for Mark’s treatment of nearly everyone he encounters…call me naive but alarm bells would have been ringing way before he even stepped foot in the door.

It was once we got towards the end of the novel that I got a glimpse of what this could have been.

Having been somewhat disappointed with this, I think I have to just say that I didn’t click with the characters/story and yet I can see this gaining a lot of fans.