BOOK REVIEW: The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common

Title: The Lives of Desperate Girls
Author: MacKenzie Common
Publication: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Genre: Teens, YA Fiction
Pages: 304



SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

One small, northern community. Two girls gone — one missing, the other dead. A riveting coming-of-age debut young adult novel for fans of Everything I Never Told You and All the Bright Places.

Sixteen-year-old Helen Commanda is found dead just outside Thunder Creek, Ontario. Her murder goes unremarked, except for the fact that it may shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is beautiful, rich and white. Helen is plain, and from the reservation. They had nothing in common except that they were teenage girls from an unforgiving small town. Only Chloe’s best friend Jenny Parker knows exactly how unforgiving, but she’s keeping some dangerous secrets of her own.

Jenny begins looking for answers about Helen’s life and death, trying to understand larger questions about her town and her best friend. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?


**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

MacKenzie Common’s novel The Lives of Desperate Girls follows the story of Jenny, living in a small town in Canada where everything is normal and nothing bad happens. Until it does. Jenny’s best friend Chloe goes missing and then another girl from the local reservation, Helen, turns up dead on a trail. Trying to cope, Jenny goes on her own little investigative journey with a new friend to try and figure out what happened to Helen, a girl she never knew.

Common’s characters are all small town characters. She has them down to the ones that want to escape and go find something bigger and better down to the ones who are convinced small town life is where they will end up. Being from a small town, I understood these characters, their feelings, and the forever feeling of boredom that is instilled at a young age. Mostly I loved the truth about how people from completely different walks of life can be friends, especially when in a small town.

The characters were great, and I enjoyed the storyline, but I felt at times that the story dragged on. Many chapters felt like duplicates of previous chapters as we followed Jenny through her activities. I understand wanting to create a timeline, a feeling of a characters life, but this felt a bit much. I would have enjoyed the book a little more had some of these chapters, or pages, been left out. The book could have easily been 25-30 pages less.

Other than the dull moments and repetitive moments, this story was great. It had a twist at the end I was not expecting, which was nice. I love when an author can take me off guard. I felt satisfied with the ending even though it wasn’t technically a happily ever after. This was just a satisfying book to wrap up and see where all the characters ended up. Common wrote an intriguing, suspenseful, and sad story of bullying, desperation, and heartache, with a story of friendship and loyalty twisted in. All in all a great story.


The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common is available September 19, 2017 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a book store near you. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are done reading.

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