To jump from reading about fluffy kittens or destitute wizards to exploring realms of mutilation and murder would be quite severe. It's imperative, for their sanity as much as their understanding, that any young reader interested in criminology, forensics, and criminal justice can enjoy gateway fiction that will guide them from children's stories into 'adult' crime fiction while leaving as few scars as possible along the way.
This is where A Good Girl's Guide to Murder may play a pivotal role. The debut novel from Holly Jackson, published by Egmot this month, is exemplary as entry-level crime fiction for a Young Adult reader keen to dip their toes in the world of crime fiction.
Moreover, it's a pretty solid guide to piecing together a project and presenting findings in a coherent and structured manner. Not bad if you're approaching those crucial secondary school exams that has, at one time or another, filled us all with immeasurable dread.
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder follows the inquisitive nose of Pippa as she sniffs out clues to discover the truth about the murder of schoolgirl Andie Bell. She believes that true justice hasn't been served, that what the people believed happened isn't really the truth. She takes it upon herself to interview those who were involved in the case five years ago, and piece together her discoveries for her final-year project.
The plot itself develops at a steady rate, not overly complicated that a YA reader would struggle to keep up but still weaving in enough threads that it acts as a steady footing for more gruesome and graphic crime fiction. The way in which the narrative is presented also heightens the reader's engagement: as readers, we get to take a peek at Pippa's personal notes, her transcripts from interviews, and other logs she keeps during her investigation. If this doesn't encourage you to utilise footnotes and keep accurate records of sources, I don't know what will.
While this epistolary form often breaks up the steady flow of the narrative, something which some readers may find uncomfortable, it does add a fresh look at the information presented. I also find that it quite pleasingly quickens the pacing, with transcripts being quite a swift way of obtaining information for processing without delay.
There are no complains here about the characters. I didn't think any clues were divulged too soon. The setting was suitable for the narrative, and the target audience was clear throughout. If you're interested in exploring crime fiction but are unsure about whether or not you're quite ready to progress into some of the more heavier and scarring novels out there, then Holly Jackson's A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is a thrilling precursor crime novel for YAs.
Written by Amy McLean
A copy of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson was provided for the purpose of this review.