Wow, that’s a lot of dead girls.
If there is one line that summarises this book, then this would be it. The Roanoke Girls, much like the historic colony are shrouded in mystery. However, unlike the colony, Amy Engel’s Gothic narrative tells a dark and deeply twisted tale of the teenage girls of Roanoke. This book is certainly a page-turner, and is definitely not for the squeamish, or weak willed.
Engel’s narrative focuses on Lane Roanoke, who tells her story from both the past and present. The past focuses on the summer after her mother’s inevitable death, when Lane is invited to live with her grandparents and cousin, Allegra at the intriguing Roanoke. The present begins with Lane returning to Roanoke for the first time since fleeing 10 years previously, to discover what has happened to her missing cousin. This narrative technique creates a grand contrast between past and present, whilst highlighting similarities in the characters, and how events surrounding Roanoke are destined to repeat themselves.
The characters are developed naturally, with Lane and Allegra discovering and succumbing to their dark sides at various points, offering extra dimensions to their personalities which makes the reader continue. I personally felt that, while the reader is given their background, the Gran and Grandad’s personalities are never fully explored by Engel. It is never explained why the girls’ grandad proceeds with his actions, and is unwilling to stop, except his own narcissism and self-love. I felt that there needed to be more explanation as to how he wound up the way he did. I felt similarly about the girls’ Gran throughout until the end of the book, where she explained to Lane why she loves their Grandad so much.
Cooper and Tommy, Lane and Allegra’s respective love interests in the book are also well-developed. They are the opposite of one another, while Lane and Allegra are more alike than first appearances show. Cooper begins as a representative of Lane’s darkest desires, while Tommy begins as the moral compass for Allegra’s devious and cheeky character. By the end of the book, however, Cooper is Lane’s knight in shining armour, while Tommy actually proved to be Allegra’s downfall.
My main criticism of this book is the writing style. Although it is very easy to follow, Engel constantly inserts Lane’s graphic sexual encounters, often unnecessarily to fill points when the story needed a break from the hard-hitting content. She also writes as though she is writing for teenagers, or young adults, a market which is inappropriate for the content. However, it is the ideal read for those who prefer a simplistic style of story-telling, yet are also interested in dark, gothic stories.