Goodreads: Girl in Snow
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Who Are You When No One Is Watching?
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.
Based on the editor’s note in the beginning of the ARC that I wouldn’t be able to put this book down, and on the title’s allusion to popular thrillers like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, I really expected Girl in Snow to be more of a thriller. Certainly, people on Goodreads are categorizing it as a “thriller” and a “mystery,” but I would personally call it literary fiction. Sure, the book opens with a dead girl (and, somewhat to my surprise, she is a girl–high school freshman–and not a woman), but the pacing is too plodding for a thriller, and the author is primarily focused on exploring the psyches of the characters.
There are three points of view in the novel: Cameron (a boy who “loved” the murdered girl Lucinda, but only from afar; really, he’s a stalker), Jade (a girl who knew Lucinda tangentially and is kind of just watching events unfold since she lives on the same street), and Russ (a police officer involved in investigating the murder). Occasionally, Kukafka does hit on something particularly deep or interesting when exploring these characters and what makes them tick. I particularly enjoyed a moment where Jade realizes she’s a thread connecting several other characters she barely knows–but that what she does know about them could change their lives if she speaks. It’s a moment of realization that she’s a secondary, but vital, character in someone else’s story, one she barely understands. These flashes of insight are rare.
To be honest, mostly I was bored by the characters. Some readers may struggle with Cameron because, yes, he’s a stalker. He stands outside Lucinda’s window night after night, watching her. He watches her at school. He sketches her. He dreams of her. He never talks to her–and he’s not sure he wants to. Frankly, this is a guy I would report to the police if I caught him watching me or my (hypothetical) daughter. Of course, he doesn’t see himself as a stalker, which is in the interesting part. I have no issue with that because it seems real. I was a bit baffled that other characters were aware of his habits and called him a stalker–but they didn’t do anything about it. But perhaps that’s realistic, too.
I was ambivalent on the mystery part. Sure, once I was 200 pages in and had invested a significant amount of time in the novel, I wanted to know who the murderer was–but my desire was not pressing. I was not on the edge of my seat or glued to the pages. I was not in suspense. I just wanted to know because….why not at that point? The answer was close to what I had guessed, too, so I can’t say I was taken my surprise. The author simply does not pace the book fast enough for it to work as a thriller; it’s really just a look at the lives of characters who happen to be dealing with a recent murder.
I didn’t think the book was bad, but I suppose my primary feeling is one of neutrality. I’ve seen some excitement about this book from actual publishing employees, but the ratings on Goodreads right now seem to mirror my own. The novel is alright, but I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to recommend it. I’ve read many other books that I’m far more excited about.