While the grim setting and frequently depressing action in Dirt Daughter may turn some readers off, YA readers who like books like Living Dead Girl or who are fans of Ellen Hopkins will approve of the realism in this YA mystery. I find that there is just something so appealing about truth and honesty for many of my high school readers, and this book certainly doesn’t try to gloss things over.
Seventeen year old Elena knows who murdered her best friend, Lizzie, on that long ago day in the woods. She knows the stages of decomposition that her body went through, and has a good idea of where her small bones lie hidden, so why has she lied about it to everyone? That is the question that drives this YA mystery, and the answer isn’t clear until the end, and it was what kept me reading long after I wanted to turn my head and pretend that no one really lives this way. The plot moves fairly quickly, and the atmosphere is consistently threatening. I liked Elena, who had a hard home life but was fighting for a better future. I also liked the love interest in this book because he was a thoughtful guy, just the type of person Elena needed. His Native American heritage was a nice addition to his character, and added some diversity to the mainly impoverished and white cast of characters. I like all of the characters who Elena bonded with, as a matter of fact. This book was well paced as a whole, but I was a little worn out wondering why Elena wouldn’t just get the truth out. Once all the pieces were in place, it made sense, but it was really hard to comprehend her decisions until nearly the end. The narrative does move around a little, starting at the end and then flashing back, but I didn’t think that it was hard to follow the shift, and it created an interesting question that sat at the back of my mind throughout the story and added to the suspense. This is one of those books that doesn’t hold back on the realism, so don’t be surprised by the awful disfunction and vividly grim events. Welcome to life as the other half, readers!
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.