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Nice Girls

by Catherine Dang

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577384,125 (3.13)None
"Darkly delicious . . . Nice Girls is about the girlhood we never really leave behind, and what happens when we dare to confront our past demons. A pulsating mystery with a narrator you won't soon forget." -- Laura Dave, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Last Thing He Told Me "If you're a total true crime addict, Catherine Dang's debut novel will have you hooked real fast." -- Cosmopolitan Recommended by New York Times Book Review * Entertainment Weekly * Cosmopolitan * Harper's Bazaar * New York Post * E! Online * Bustle * Popsugar * CrimeReads * The Nerd Daily * PureWow * Mystery & Suspense Magazine * Criminal Element * and more! A pulse-pounding and razor-sharp debut with the emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask: Which is more dangerous for a woman--showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Mary used to be such a nice girl. She was the resident whiz kid of Liberty Lake, Minnesota--the quiet, chubby teen with the scholarship to an Ivy League school. But three years later, "Ivy League Mary" is back--a thinner, cynical, restless failure who was kicked out of Cor­nell at the beginning of her senior year and won't tell anyone why. Taking a job at the local grocery store, Mary tries to make sense of her life's sharp downward spiral. Then beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand goes missing. A rising social media star, Olivia is admired by everyone in Liberty Lake--except Mary. Once Olivia's best friend, Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hides a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the town obsesses over perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary wonders if her disappearance might be tied to another missing person: nineteen-year-old DeMaria Jackson, whose case has been widely dismissed as a runaway. Who is the real Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary pries at the cracks in the careful facades surrounding the two missing girls, old wounds will bleed fresh and force her to confront a horrible truth. Maybe there are no nice girls, after all. "Complex characters, questionable choices, and conflicted feelings about who we are and the people we leave behind combine in a compelling thriller that will have you flipping pages to discover how it all fits together."-- Darby Kane, #1 internationally bestselling author of Pretty Little Wife "Nice Girls finds itself among the most haunting of mysteries, those that resonate with our current affairs, like Alyssa Cole's When No One Is Watching and Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind. Perfect for the millennial armchair detective, Nice Girls will satisfy your true crime addiction and intensify your desire for justice."-- Paperback Paris… (more)
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In the very beginning of Nice Girls, by Catherine Dang, Ivy League Mary gets expelled from Cornell when she slugs a rich, annoying freshman girl. Mary's working out her issues about being ignored and almost friendless in high school (ok, most of the book is Mary's issues with being unpopular in high school), and it's almost an understandable attack, really, when you see how insufferable that freshman is, but not a great choice for an upperclassman RA to go around attacking their residents.

From that moment on, you always know Mary has untapped rage inside her and doesn't exactly make the most responsible decisions.

Back in Mary's small town, she's working grocery checkout and tryign to figure out what happens when Ivy League Mary is expelled from the Ivy League, when the beautiful high school mean girl, now an Insta-model, disappears. I enjoyed the look at Instagram celebrity versus reality, a captivating thread in Social Creature and in Happy And You Know It, too.

The novel looks at what happens when a pretty, young Black mother and a pretty, young, white Instagram model go missing. It's here where Nice Girls shines, highlighting which girls are tragic disappearances, and which ones must be gang-related runaways.

Despite this really compelling investigation, Mary was kind of a hard character to connect with. I don't mean she was unlikable, I often enjoy a story with an over-the-top or unfriendly protag, like the horrible friends in The Hunting Party or the diagnosed psychopaths in Never Saw Me Coming. I just didn't really connect with Mary's motivations and especially her constant resentment, and that made it hard to really fall into the story. At times in this novel, it was hard to take Mary's feelings seriously because she was still so angry about being an unpopular teenager. Maybe this problem is me, maybe I'm just too old to care about who got invited to which parties in high school. But Mary's working in the grocery store with the ex-football-star-turned-cashier, so it's weird that she was still so invested in high school glory days.

Nice Girls is unfortunately super gory, but fortunately, it's very clear when that's coming. VERY CLEAR. You will know when to skip pages, and if you're at all like me, you will definitely need to skip some gross descriptions.

Overall, the questions raised by this story about who is a nice girl and who the police help were timely and engaging. The investigation had a lot of twists, which walked a fine mine of being surprising and believable, but the book was held back by my trouble connecting with (and particularly caring about) the main character.
  TheFictionAddiction | May 8, 2022 |
We all know of a few of "those girls" from High School. The pretty girl who seemingly has everything you want and her life is just perfect? Got her name? Now picture yourself 10 years down the road and she's missing. Are you helping to search for her or sitting on the couch thinking she had it coming?



Mary wasn't "that" girl, but she had been friends with her for most of her childhood before going their separate ways. But now Mary is back home after being booted from her Ivy League school and "that girl", aka Olivia, is missing.



If I'm being honest, I didn't feel as connected to Mary or any of the other characters as I think I should have been. She was a strong character, Sure, I empathized with her, but something just didn't make me love her. A brilliant mind in a dark place...The first half of the book alluded to why she was kicked out of school but once it was finally revealed, it just didn't feel all that... juicy? I think the book would have been helped if the reader know the why much sooner and could have related to Mary in regards to this...



There was a lot of thought processing throughout the book and if I hadn't been so dang curious about where Olivia was or her connection to DeMaria (the other missing girl), I probably wouldn't have finished the book. BUT, the fact that I felt I just had to know is a definite plus for Catherine Dang - great job at grabbing my curiosity and keeping me turning the pages!



And then the ending... What really happened to Olivia and DeMaria? Well, that was thrilling. It felt like watching a good thrilling movie - another kudos to Catherine! I'm not going to give away anything...



So overall, I think many people are going to love this book. I think that my feelings are probably the outcome the author was striving for even - that disconnect with Mary and the relationships surrounding her. Because, after all, they are the real winner of this book. This isn't a sick and twisted thriller if that's what you're hoping for - but it is definitely a book you'll want to absorb even if you don't understand exactly why...



Thank you William Morrow for allowing me to read this and give my honest opinion. ( )
  Jynell | Feb 24, 2022 |
The mystery wasnt bad but the motives were a bit shaky in my opinion. My main issue is I hated the protagonist. Her constant self deprecations were grating and never really addressed in a meaningful way. I kept waiting for the book to counter her internalized fatphobia but it never did. Ultimately I found her to be morally corrupt for her handling of events later in the book and her interactions with law enforcement. ( )
  mutantpudding | Jan 7, 2022 |
Nice Girls begins with “Ivy League” Mary moving back home from her prestigious college, moving back home with her father in disgrace after being expelled for fighting. Almost as soon as she is back in her affluent suburban hometown of Liberty Lake, a fellow classmate and childhood best friend disappears. Olivia Willand left Mary behind before high school, so there is this complex remembered friendship mixed with anger and resentment for being left behind.

Mary gets a job at the grocery store, becomes friends with another former classmate, a Black man who was destined for a pro career before derailed. She learns that a Black woman disappeared suspiciously earlier but the police were completely unconcerned insisting she had run away to escape her responsibilities, including her newborn son. Mary keeps investigating, certain she can solve the problem.

I enjoyed Nice Girls and the mystery was fair. We learn what Mary does when she learns it. Catherine Dang did not create a charming or sympathetic protagonist. Mary is depressed, full of self-pity, and full of resentments. We don’t know why she violently attacked the woman that led to her expulsion for most of the book. Perhaps we are supposed to suspect she might have something to do with Olivia’s disappearance, but I never thought so for a moment even when I disliked her actions.

Dang carefully explores the way racism works, contrasting the police investigation of Daniela’s disappearance and Olivia’s. It seems particularly apt this week when Missing White Woman Syndrome has captured the media’s attention again with the tragic death of Gabby Petito. It does not diminish the tragedy of her death to note that there has never been a similar frenzy about a Black or Indigenous woman who disappeared. Dang also has her own character succumb to implicit bias with unjustified fears of some of the Black people she encounters. This is hard to do while avoiding dogmatism but Dang succeeds.

Nice Girls was released on September 14th. I received an ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

Nice Girls at William Morrow | Harper Collins
Catherine Dang author site

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2021/09/10/nice-girls-by-catherine-d... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Sep 22, 2021 |
Title: Nice Girls
Author: Catherine Dang
Publisher: William Morrow and Custom House
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Four
Review:
"Nice Girls" by Catherine Dang
My Opinion:

'Nice Girls' was one heck of a crime thriller with so many twists and turns that the reader will have to keep up with all that was going on, especially for Mary, who grew up in Minnesota, chubby unattractive, and poor. However, Mary was smart to get a full scholarship to an Ivy League college, Cornell, until she was expelled and now back home to Liberty Lake working in a grocery store while dodging questions about what had happened.

It wasn't long after Mary found a job at the grocery store she gets involved with a friend who seemed to have vanished without a trace, and for some reason, she wants to get involved. Also, there was a Black single mother, DeMaria that had also disappeared. Is this the work of a serial killer? Will Mary put herself into situations that will have her becoming the next victim? The story will suck one in as you continue to read.

The author really gives the reader quite a read because it seemed like all of these characters were flawed and emotionally damaged in one way or another. Was there anyone in this story to really like?

The story was somewhat fast-paced with a unique multi-layered plot that brought in characters from elementary, high school, and even college that brought in some emotional, dark, and even disturbing subjects. Having a disgraced student to missing girls who turn up dead will give the reader quite a web that will come out quite interesting. Unfortunately, that ending was something that you will have to pick up 'Nice Girls' to see how this ending was 'super cinematic and wild' that one will not see coming.

Be ready for a good read that had issues that explored bullying and racism.

Thank you, NetGallery, and William Morrow, for allowing me to read and give my honest opinion. ( )
  arlenadean | Sep 5, 2021 |
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"Darkly delicious . . . Nice Girls is about the girlhood we never really leave behind, and what happens when we dare to confront our past demons. A pulsating mystery with a narrator you won't soon forget." -- Laura Dave, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Last Thing He Told Me "If you're a total true crime addict, Catherine Dang's debut novel will have you hooked real fast." -- Cosmopolitan Recommended by New York Times Book Review * Entertainment Weekly * Cosmopolitan * Harper's Bazaar * New York Post * E! Online * Bustle * Popsugar * CrimeReads * The Nerd Daily * PureWow * Mystery & Suspense Magazine * Criminal Element * and more! A pulse-pounding and razor-sharp debut with the emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask: Which is more dangerous for a woman--showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Mary used to be such a nice girl. She was the resident whiz kid of Liberty Lake, Minnesota--the quiet, chubby teen with the scholarship to an Ivy League school. But three years later, "Ivy League Mary" is back--a thinner, cynical, restless failure who was kicked out of Cor­nell at the beginning of her senior year and won't tell anyone why. Taking a job at the local grocery store, Mary tries to make sense of her life's sharp downward spiral. Then beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand goes missing. A rising social media star, Olivia is admired by everyone in Liberty Lake--except Mary. Once Olivia's best friend, Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hides a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the town obsesses over perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary wonders if her disappearance might be tied to another missing person: nineteen-year-old DeMaria Jackson, whose case has been widely dismissed as a runaway. Who is the real Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary pries at the cracks in the careful facades surrounding the two missing girls, old wounds will bleed fresh and force her to confront a horrible truth. Maybe there are no nice girls, after all. "Complex characters, questionable choices, and conflicted feelings about who we are and the people we leave behind combine in a compelling thriller that will have you flipping pages to discover how it all fits together."-- Darby Kane, #1 internationally bestselling author of Pretty Little Wife "Nice Girls finds itself among the most haunting of mysteries, those that resonate with our current affairs, like Alyssa Cole's When No One Is Watching and Rumaan Alam's Leave the World Behind. Perfect for the millennial armchair detective, Nice Girls will satisfy your true crime addiction and intensify your desire for justice."-- Paperback Paris

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