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Secrets of Southern Girls: A Novel by Haley…

Secrets of Southern Girls: A Novel

by Haley Harrigan

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MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️▫️▫️
PUBLISHER Sourcebooks Landmark
PUBLISHED June 1, 2017

Secrets of Southern Girls is a debut novel for Haley Harrigan. Julie Portland and her best friend Reba grew up in a mill town in Mississippi in the 1990s. Julie thought they shared everything. But when they were seniors in high school Julie learned there were some big secrets Reba had been keeping from her. Julie was hurt and mad. And then something terrible happened. Reba was dead. Her body was found down river from their favorite bridge. Did Reba commit suicide? Or was she pushed? Did Julie have something to do with it?

It's now 10 years later, and Julie is single and lives in New York City with her daughter Beck. Julie has been stalked and finally approached by August, Reba's old boyfriend from high school. August wants Julie to join him on a trip back to Lawernce Mill, Mississippi. August knows that Julie had a diary that she had planned to give him that fateful night. No one knows what happened to it. August is able to convince Julie that Reba's diary might be the key to figuring out what really happened on the bridge that night.

Overall, I liked the book. It was fairly easy to read and the story was interesting. For a debut novel I thought the writing was good. I particularly liked the use of Reba's diary entries to tell her version of the story. I also liked how the intensity of the diary entries coincided with the intensity of the experiences Julie and August had in Mississippi trying to obtain the diary.

Secrets of Southern Girls contained a robust cast of characters, most all of which were adequately developed. The main characters were Julie, Reba, August, Nell and Toby. In addition there a host of minor characters such as Julie's aunt and Uncle, Reba parents and the famous actor, Evan, who was Julie's ex husband. I would have love to see Evan play more of a role in the book. I thought the artist, Toby, who was Julie's cousin and the antagonist, added a little creative spice to the story.

I found it a little unbelievable that Julie would hang out for 10 years without pursuing what really happened that night on the bridge. I also struggled somewhat with the perspectives from which the story was told. The chapters jumped between August, Reba, and Julie's point of view. Additionally chapters jump back and forth in time as well. It was a little hard to follow at times. Overall, it was an entertaining read. It's would probably appeal most to younger women between the ages of 13-35.

Thanks to Netgalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and Haley Harrigan for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  LisaSHarvey | Aug 19, 2017 |
Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. Even worse, no one else knows. Consumed by guilt, Julie has long left her small Mississippi hometown behind, but she can't escape the memories. They have already ruined her marriage, and they threaten to take over her life. So when Reba's long-ago high school boyfriend shows up, claiming Reba left behind a diary, Julie reluctantly returns home with him to help search. Once there, however, she's caught up in a swirl of memories and secrets.

Oh, I have mixed feelings about this one. The novel switches POV and time periods in an effort to set up suspense. Our main character is Julie, but we hear from others as well, and the author includes snippets from Reba's diary. Bits and pieces of the story unfold slowly, with portions coming from the past and then others as the characters think back and remember. For the most part, this does work; you become almost frustrated, waiting and wondering what on earth happened back then. Reba's diary entries don't always seem to be in the voice of a seventeen-year-old teen, though, and some of the plot (both current and past) just seems odd. Plus, we also get bits and pieces of more recent parts of Julie's life and those really just distract from the real story.

I think the hardest thing for me was that while I really didn't have a major problem with the novel, I just wasn't incredibly connected to it, either. I liked Julie well enough, but I wasn't really invested in her, or really, Reba's story. I was curious about what happened to her, but I didn't particularly care, and there's a big difference there. In the end, I felt like there was a build up for... not much. I found the story intriguing and suspenseful, but somewhat disappointing. I kept waiting for some big shocker, or reveal, but it never happened. The ending felt a little cliche, and I was just sort of frustrated by the end.

So, overall, this isn't a bad book. In fact, it's often quite intriguing and can be a real page-turner at times. Unfortunately, I was bogged down by its uninteresting characters and a plot that I found to be a bit of a letdown. I'd go with 2.5 - 3 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 06/06/2017.

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  justacatandabook | Jul 21, 2017 |
This book needs to get interesting long before it does! We spend a great deal of time with the main character in her head full of angst without really getting to know her or understand her current day or past relationships. All the while we are teased with this "mystery" and given no real nuggets of information to keep us interested as she looks for answers. And in the end, the secrets of these Southern girls aren't even large enough to hold the book together. Sorry, but this one is a clunker. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
Blog Tour Host & Book Giveaway Contest.

Haley Harrigan delivers a twisty mystery southern debut SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS – a grown woman and mother, with demons from her past which surface. . . part young adult, and coming-of-age; haunting secrets that shape lives.

Julie Portland has a secret. Years ago she escaped this small southern town; however, she has never forgotten the trauma. Now she is in New York, and the ghosts of the past stare her in the face.

Ten years earlier, Julie’s best friend Reba died after falling off a bridge in Lawrence Mill, Mississippi. Julie feels responsible. They had an argument. She killed her friend. She swore she would never return to this awful place.

Now, August Elliot shows up (Reba’s first love). A walking, talking, tangible reminder of the past.

August is African American and Reba’s dad would not have accepted a relationship. They began dating in secret.

In New York, her young daughter Beck wants to know, “who is Reba?"

Julie dreams of Reba. She has tortured herself. She knows she will have to forgive herself in order to move on with her future.

She now comes face to face with August (Reba’s love).

He wants her to return to Lawrence Mill with him. He wants the diary. She does not know about a diary. She thinks of how dangerous a journal of Reba’s could be in the wrong hands.

Who has the diary? Someone will learn the secrets of her shameful past. Would her friend be so careless as to document the things that happened that year? August thought Julie (Jules) had it. Now if she doesn’t, who does?

Nell must have the diary. With Reba’s diary entries sprinkled throughout, the ghosts of the past are unraveled. What really happened?

Told from two time periods 1997/2008. Two best friends Julie had lost per parents in an accident and turned a little wild. Reba works at Nell’s Flower Shop. Reba appears to have the perfect home life. However, her dad is a racist and Reba has her own secrets.

August never found closure after Reba died and he is convinced that someone has the old diary Reba once told him he should read.

Does anyone know the real Reba? What is the real truth behind August? Then and now?

Both Julie and August are shocked to learn the truth about Reba. Will they be able to come to terms with her death and the ghosts of the past? Things are not always as they appear.

A slow-burning suspense. I was not really connected to any of the characters and feel it would have flowed a bit easier if the chapters had been broken down the characters, for a little more organization.

However, for a debut the author clearly is a talented writer and for readers who enjoy young adult fiction, Southern Gothic, and coming-of-age mysteries.

A journey of healing and redemption. Looking forward to seeing what’s next for this newfound author.

A special thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an early reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 Stars

JDCMustReadBooks ( )
  JudithDCollins | Jun 7, 2017 |
This was a slow moving read that told the story of Reba and her death while still a teenager. Julie, her best friend, and August, her boyfriend at the time, find each other and set out on a mission to find the truth of what really happened to Reba.

Both of these characters think that they have something to do with the demise of Reba, a girl they both loved very much.

When the final moments of Reba's life are brought to light, the results will both shock you and disgust you.

As I said, a slow moving read, but, for me, was still entertaining.

Huge thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Net Galley for the free e-galley for me to give my honest, unbiased opinion. ( )
  debkrenzer | May 20, 2017 |
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"Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What's worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can't forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret. When August, Reba's first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie's past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried ... and reveal that Julie isn't the only one who feels responsible for Reba's death."--… (more)

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