Review: The Girls are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Summary: A lot has changed in years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads, “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester.

Genre: Thriller, mystery
Rating: ★★★★

This is a book that you’ll either completely love or absolutely hate. There is no middle ground here. When I was reading reviews from other readers, the biggest point that stood out was that they despised all of the characters in this book. Ambrosia Wellington (I think her name alone says a lot about the type of person she would turn out to be) is insufferable, dependent on others’ validation, and a straight up bully. Her partner in crime, Sloane, is the type of cool girl that all the boys want and all the girls want to be, but she’s dangerous. These things are absolutely true about The Girls Are All So Nice Here, but what made me sink right into the heart of this story is how well-written these girls are.

Ambrosia comes from a boring, safe town and wants to break out of her shell when she goes to college. She isn’t born into meanness, she doesn’t see herself as a bully. When she befriends Sully, it isn’t with a flip of a switch that she becomes a person who does evil things. There’s a lot of internal conflict within her – her reason for hurting a friend isn’t because she thinks it’s fun; she does it because she knows she will never be the kind of good, nice girl that her friend is. She’s aware of this, and instead of trying to change herself for the better, she chooses to do the opposite. When she starts to spend all of her time with Sully, both of them getting into trouble, she does question her choices throughout. She knows she’ll hurt someone’s feelings, she knows she’ll ruin a relationship or friendship or even someone’s life, and she doesn’t want that – but she does want the acceptance and approval of Sully, and that overpowers any of her rational thoughts.

Sully is an enigma from start to finish, and I couldn’t shake my fascination with her. She hurts people’s feelings for fun; has an obsession with stealing boys’ phones and wreaking havoc on their relationships; she views people as objects or playthings and gets bored of them easily. As the story progressed, I started to question everything from Sully. Even though it wasn’t ever outright answered, I started to assume that some of the things Sully said to Ambrosia were downright lies in an attempt to keep herself entertained. I guessed small plot points that were generally the worst possible outcome, because that’s just the type of person that Sully was.

The past-tense chapters in this story had me completely reeled in, and I devoured them hungrily. The present-day chapters were less enticing.

I really dislike the trope of mysteries where the main character has a troubled past, she moves away and starts a new life, and for some reason (usually a dying family member or a new murder mystery –bonus points if she’s now the cop on the case–) forces her to return home. While she solves a mystery, she’s forced to confront her past. It’s an absolute snoozefest every time, because it’s so boringly predictable.

The present-day scenes were molded into that so perfectly. Ambrosia and her husband attend a weekend-long college reunion. Someone is leaving clues for Ambrosia that makes her realize someone knows what really happens following a tragic event in her college days. She could easily have left and avoided all the conflict, but she chooses to stay to solve the mystery. The girl who was once so lively and clever in her college days is suddenly an idiot.

The reunion scenes only existed to give the reader answers of what really happened that night, or rather of who had done what. I was satisfied with the answers because it drove home the point that both Ambrosia and Sully (and, truthfully, all of the side characters too) were horrible people. However, I think the scenes could have been much shorter, as they tended to drag on. The climax at the end of the story was both not what I was expecting and exactly what I was hoping for, because these characters deserved everything they got.

Most readers seemed to dislike this story because the characters were so insufferable, but I had the best time hating all of them.

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