Our reign was short and bloody.
What came after it was worse.
When an email arrives in Ambrosia “Amb” Wellington’s inbox, she deletes it immediately. It’s from her Alumni committee, inviting her to a ten-year reunion, but Amb does not want to go. Then strange notes start to arrive. Something VERY BAD occurred when Amb was a freshman, and Amb can’t hide her past forever.
The Girls Are All So Nice Here
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Simon & Schuster
Alternating between Amb’s college freshman year and her high school reunion, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is an often intense portrait of the meanest of mean girls and the cruel psychological games they can play. And to get there, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn goes into such graphic bodily detail that despite certain clues presented to you very early on, you may still wince at shocking torture inflicted on poor innocent Flora.
Immediately threatened by Flora (‘she’s what Billie would call a “try-hard”‘), a kind girl whose seemingly perfect existence threatens Amb, Amb proceeds to destroy her life via something Flora loves: her boyfriend, Kevin. Due to a chance encounter, Amb is determined to have this guy, who is pretty much a stranger. Encouraged by the manipulative, psychotic, sociopath Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, what starts as ‘stealing a boy’ becomes increasingly nastier, and more disturbing, as Flora is picked apart and destroyed by any means necessary.
What makes it more the more compelling is that it’s told from Amb’s perspective, so you’re right there with her all the way, wincing at her actions and decisions first hand. It struck me how quickly I came to loathe Amb — she is a toxic, manipulative, awful person who refuses to befriend one girl because they are from the same town and will stop at nothing to be cool. Despite being warned that Sully is dangerous, Amb only wants her attention and is so fixated on trying to be a specific version of herself that she loses sight of all decency and humanity in the process. I expect this was author Laurie Elizabeth Flynn’s intention because, in dispising Amb, you feel even more appalled by what she has done.
“At Wesleyan, I was ready to slip effortlessly into the person I imagined I could be. But I realized that the first day that effortless might not be in the cards. The girls here seemed casually beautiful in a way that felt unachievable, dewy and shiny without being overtly flashy.”
Although I watch and read a fair amount of real crime, I still found some parts especially disturbing (especially when Sully and Amb spearhead Flora’s sexual assault and don’t realise until informed at the reunion). While the “then” and “now” interwoven storyline parallels may be a compelling premise, and can be, I found the past to be a more fleshed out place with more intrigue, depth of characters, and suspense. Some things are evident from the first page (who doesn’t question an “official” email from a Gmail address?) The notes Amb repeatedly found feel like a tide and tested fail-safe trope (everything from Desperate Housewives to Pretty Little Liars has featured anonymous letters), but, in this instance, they didn’t entirely work for me.
The Girls Are All So Nice Here exposes girls’ cruelty, the competitive psychological games they play, and the torment they inflict on each other. In one sense, the novel is less whodunnit and more ‘howdidtheydoit’, because you know an outcome at the beginning. It’s getting there that’s the kicker.