Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advance copy of Danya Kukafka’s debut novel, Girl in Snow, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT – A Colorado suburb is rattled by the mysterious and brutal death of high school student Lucinda Hayes. No one is sure who has committed the crime, but as it is being investigated, suspicion falls on several people in the town. What happens when evidence is flimsy, no one seems to have a real motive, yet odd behavior casts suspicion?
LIKE– Kukafka isn’t just a debut author, but she is also a very young debut author. She is currently in her early twenties, but she started writing Girl in Snow at sixteen. I’m blown away and a tad envious of her talent. What stands out the most is her writing style. She writes in a direct manner with amazing sensory descriptions that avoid being flowery. On top of that, her descriptions are unusual and creative. I love the way her mind works. She packs a punch with her prose.
Speaking of her words, the title is pitch perfect. Rather than the obvious “Girl in the Snow”, Girl in Snow is succinct and it plays into Cameron’s artistic inclinations. His obsession with Lucinda is artistic in nature and when she breaks the third wall to interact with him, he almost doesn’t know how to handle her. Girl in Snow sounds like the title of a painting. It’s perfect.
Perhaps because Kukafka wrote Girl in Snow as a teenager, she has a knack for writing the teenage characters. Kukafka writes them in a way that instantly brought me back to my high school years. It’s affecting and even a little unsettling. Girl in Snow is told through three perspectives : Cameron: an artistic high school student from a troubled family, Jade: a high school outcast who was childhood friends with Lucinda, and Russ: a police officer with connections to Cameron’s family.
I was most intrigued by the character of Cameron, who is immediately a suspect because of several factors that are beyond his control. Cameron’s father was once a police officer and Russ’ partner on the force, but he was put on trial for murdering a woman and when he wasn’t convicted, he left town, abandoning his family. Cameron is extra sensitive; a kid who sees and feels everything. He is also very much an outsider, and prior to Lucinda’s murder, one of her friends openly labeled Cameron as a kid who would bring a gun to school. Cameron doesn’t help himself by exhibiting odd behavior, such as staring into his neighbor’s houses at night, watching them, including Lucinda’s house prior to her death. Cameron has black-outs, rendering him unsure as to whether or not he may have actually killed her. Cameron is a character who has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
DISLIKE– I don’t often read mysteries, but I was disappointed that I could figure out the culprit from the first time they are introduced. I’m not going to spoil it, just to say that it was heavy- handed enough to figure out. I was hoping that I would be wrong, but when it was revealed, it was not a surprise. The best mysteries are the ones that you can’t anticipate.
I thought the plot was a little messy, especially with the character of Russ and his wife. It was all wrapped up in the end, but I wasn’t convinced or engaged with where it was heading through most of the story. Perhaps because it distracted from the mystery of Lucinda. I thought it bogged down the pacing. The pacing was very strong for the first 2/3 and then it lagged in the last 1/3.
RECOMMEND– Yes, primarily due to Kukafka’s marvelous writing. Girl in Snow is a solid mystery, but beyond this first book, I’m certain that Kukafka will have a bright career as a writer. I will definitely read her next book.