The Girl She Was Before is a riveting debut crime thriller from Jess Kitching. It’s a story that’s rooted in overcoming the challenges of a difficult youth, and one that questions whether you can ever outrun your past.
Nat lives a picture-perfect life, or so it seems. She has a handsome husband, a sweet baby girl and lives in a beautiful home. As an online influencer this is the image she presents to the world, but behind her smile she hides emotional scars from the torment she suffered from bullies growing up.
She’s tried to leave all of that hurt behind her, in fact Nat is now even friends with the girls who once bullied her at school. Although she has everything she always thought she’d wanted, she’s finally popular and has thousands who’d like to be just like her, her world is turned upside down when her best friend is murdered.
Self-doubt about who she really is creeps into every fibre of her being, invading every aspect of her life. Nat is pushed to her limits, wondering if she’s a good enough wife, mom or friend as painful memories from her school days return unwanted.
The story moves between the past and the present, giving us an intimate look at the torment suffered at the hands of the girls who bullied her. As the ringleader of her then tormentors returns unexpectedly to the small town, Nat is surprised to discover that she’s still afraid of Chrissy Summers. Fixated on proving Chrissy is behind her friend’s death, she slowly spirals out of control as she starts to lose everything that’s most important to her and that she’s worked so hard to build. Her life begins to unravel, and the girl who once was nothing and now has it all becomes the girl who ultimately stands to lose it all too.
I felt myself pulled into this book, horrified at the relentless bullying inflicted on a young girl and cheering for her to overcome the odds and succeed as she did. It’s because of all she did overcome that Nat’s fall from grace is all the harder to witness unfolding, as the persistent attack on her breaks her down mentally and she reacts to the circumstances that unravel around her which she seems unable to control.
There was a major twist that I was not expecting and, even though I was delighted to have been so hoodwinked, it also left me questioning everything I had read before then and feeling more than a little unsettled at the outcome. The mark of a good thriller I believe!
The Girl She Was Before swept me up in it’s cleverly conceived plot and left me wondering about it’s shocking ending even after I had finished the book. I can’t wait to see what Jess Kitching has in store for us next.
Trigger warning: bullying and profanity.
The Girl She Was Before will be available on 31 October. You can pre-order it now here.
Thanks to Kingsley Publishers for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.