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Body of a Girl by Leah Stewart
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Body of a Girl

by Leah Stewart

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I confess that I decided I would like Leah Stewart's first novel, "Body of a Girl" two sentences into the third paragraph. That's when the author describes the cloudy Memphis summer morning and says, "Here and there patches of light shine through the clouds, as though someone poked holes in my jar so I could breathe." I'm a sucker for an excellent line, and this book offers up many. In addition, Leah Stewart relays the story using first person, present tense, and I'm tempted to give her an extra star in my rating just for being able to do that and do it well.

"Body of a Girl" tells the story of Olivia Dale, a journalist who is piecing together the life and death of Allison Avery, a murdered young woman who is similar to Olivia in appearance, and with whom Olivia's path may have crossed as they each made their way through Memphis's twenty-something night life.

The more Olivia learns about Allison, the more she becomes obsessed with her. This novel goes beyond being just another murder mystery as it takes a look at what makes us who we are, and what happens when we try to transform ourselves into someone else. The plot is done well, the pacing is good overall, and although Olivia's decisions will begin to wear on some of the book's readers (I even exclaimed aloud at one point, "What is she thinking?!"), this is an overall good, solid read. It doesn't have many similarities to the other book by Stewart that I've read, "Husband and Wife," except in Stewart's ability to get into the mind of everywoman and wrap herself around the strengths and weaknesses that are unique (in my opinion) to a female in crisis. ( )
  kalky | May 24, 2011 |
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This has been a summer of murders.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0141001992, Paperback)

Olivia Dale is making a name for herself on the crime beat at a Memphis newspaper. Her byline means everything to her, and the 24-year-old has cultivated a tough veneer to get her scoops. But that veneer is as fragile as blown glass. The brutal rape and murder of Allison Avery, a charismatic young singer whose life holds, and casts, dark shadows, shatters Olivia's hard- won calm. The remaining question: will it shatter her life as well? Olivia both capitalizes on and privately regrets the enforced voyeurism of her profession. Always on the margin, always watching, always chronicling the lives of others, she wonders what her own life might be missing:

People are like those nested Russian dolls. There's always someone else hiding inside the person you think you know, layer after layer, each with the same painted face. I want to open someone up and hold that last solid little doll in my hand. I know all of Allison Avery's disguises, femme fatale, loyal friend, maternal and corrupting sister, virginal obedient daughter, performer, alive with the magic of her own touch. But who was she at the center? I don't know if I believe in the soul. I'm afraid of the darkness I see in all of us, every one of us a mystery. I have looked in the mirror and not been certain that I saw myself.
As she picks through the contradictory remains of Allison's existence, however, Olivia falls helplessly under Allison's spell. Her quest to discover the truth behind her death slides into an eerie exercise in doubling, as Olivia begins to mimic the singer in thought, word, and deed. Where will Olivia draw the line between self and subject in her terrifying plunge from distance to immediacy? And will it be the merging, or the separating, that carries the greatest risks?

Body of a Girl is at once atmospheric, erotic, and deeply disturbing. So effective is Leah Stewart at capturing the sultry heat of a Memphis summer that the pages practically sweat. It is well-paced and tautly plotted, visceral and gripping. Stewart has mercilessly sketched the potential emptiness at the core of the self, and in doing so has given psychological suspense fans a name to appreciate now and welcome in the future. --Kelly Flynn

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In Memphis, where the heat clings heavy like a second skin, it has been a summer of murders. Olivia Dale's job as a novice crime reporter is at once surreal--stepping in and out of strangers' lives with her notebook--and all too real. As she looks down on the twisted body of a young woman who has been kidnapped and gruesomely killed, she wonders if she could have been that girl. As she chases the story, she discovers that Allison Avery--so all-American, so like Olivia in age and looks--was just like her, except wilder. Drawn deep into the shadows and secrets of Allison's life, Olivia becomes caught up in exploring her own wild side and finds herself seduced by a perilous world where her life may be in danger.… (more)

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