Thursday, August 23, 2018

WATCH THE GIRLS :: Jennifer Wolfe

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

One can't help but become ensnared by Watch the Girls even before the first chapter opens. Starting with Jennifer Wolfe's dedication to her agent, "for liking it weird," followed by a John Updike quote, "Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face," Wolfe's nods to the odd are spot on, and the creepiness of the thriller is utterly engrossing.

Fifteen years after her youngest sister's disappearance, former teen star Olivia Hill (now Liv Hendricks) has distanced herself from her family, been fired from the Scooby-Doo-esque reality mystery show Bullsh?t Hunters and crowdfunded her own web series to explore unsolved mysteries. This lands her in the small central California town of Stone's Throw, secretly hired by local horror film auteur Jonas Kron to investigate the disappearance of several young blonde women from aptly named Dark Road just outside of town. The secluded mountain village is as quaint as it is bizarre; home to apple orchards, a film festival, a wolf sanctuary and the lore of the Ulv Konge ("Wolf King"), a nightmarish creature created by Kron.

Wolfe, who also writes YA as Jennifer Bosworth (Struck), twists together a wide spectrum of themes on an action-packed track through Crazy Town. With dark woods, missing women, eccentric locals, unsettling wolf masks, secret messages and nighttime stalkers, Watch the Girls has all the nightmare fuel of great horror movie camp mixed with an absorbing mystery. Although it strays into implausibility as Liv's past timeline converges with her present, there is no denying Girls is "nervously-eat-an-entire-box-of-cookies-without-realizing-it" good.

STREET SENSE:  Wolfe handles the mixed genres in an impressive manner and there is no doubt this is a compulsive read. Those factors help with the stretching of credibility that goes on, but if it's realism you're looking for, horror/camp-ish titles aren't your bag anyway. This one is just straight creepy fun, with some scenes that might be skip-worthy for the squeamish.

COVER NERD SAYS: I definitely appreciate the simplicity of this cover. The camera eye, along with the title, surely evoke the creepiness within. I wasn't altogether sure what girls were being watched by whom, but this cover really made me want to find out.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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