Title: Dead End Girls
Author: Wendy Heard
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, LGBTQ+
Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an ARC!
Maude has been preparing to fake her own death for a few years, working to save enough money to start a new life and considering every detail of her escape. The night before she performs her disappearing act, her step-cousin Frankie discovers her plan. She will keep Maude’s secret… if Maude helps Frankie disappear too. What follows is their desperate attempt to create new lives for themselves without getting caught, but seemingly everything goes wrong along the way. As we follow along with Maude and Frankie, we witness non-stop action as their relationship develops and their motivations for wanting to leave their old lives behind are revealed.
Dead End Girls was such an action-packed adventure with constant twists and turns that fully captured my attention. Just as Maude and Frankie fought their way out of one messy situation, there would inevitably be another hitch in their plans, and my desire to see what would happen next made it extremely difficult to put this book down.
While reading about Maude and Frankie’s journey, we follow them from one location to the next. I thought Wendy Heard did an exceptional job with each painting each location and bringing their atmospheres to life. I could vividly picture the bungalows in Hawaii, the smog of Los Angeles, and the crowds in Las Vegas. Heard’s descriptions made it easy to imagine the air cooling before the storm in one scene and the sense of danger on the streets of Hollywood at night in another scene.
Aside from the thrilling plot and detailed setting, my favorite part of this reading experience was unraveling Frankie’s secrets. Although most of the chapters are from Maude’s perspective, there are also alternating chapters that focus on Frankie’s life leading up to the start of this story. I felt that this was the most mysterious part of the novel because each time we learn more through a flashback, we are also left with more questions about the strange events that seem to be taking place.
In addition to adding a mysterious aspect to the novel, Frankie’s chapters incorporated some thought-provoking discussions surrounding gender and identity. Frankie considers whether they are non-binary throughout the story and although I cannot speak to that representation, I do appreciate its inclusion. Heard’s portrayal of a character who is still trying to better understand themself illustrates the important fact that not everyone is innately sure exactly who they are and that is perfectly okay, and I think this will really resonate with readers.
My main complaint about this book was that I didn’t like Maude. Sometimes I can get on board with unlikable characters, but in this case, I didn’t really understand or agree with her motivations either. I admit that her family is pretty horrible and she is definitely neglected by her parents. However, rather than going through the trouble of faking her death as a 17 year old, why didn’t she just wait to become a legal adult and move away? Also, she treated Frankie so poorly in order to push her away and characters who do this because they feel they don’t deserve love are my kryptonite.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dead End Girls! I would highly recommend it, especially to readers who love a fast-paced, action-packed plot.
Have you read any fast-paced thrillers lately that you’d recommend?