“But still they ran, giddy and breathless, the pieces of June’s life dropping away bit by bit”—for about four years, June’s life was entwined with Delia’s, but that friendship was splintered by a boy. Now, Delia appears to have committed suicide by fire, which is unimaginable since she is terrified of any flame. And June can’t let it go; could she have stopped Delia if they had remained friends? Or if June had answered Delia’s phone call on New Year’s Eve? Or could Delia have been murdered? This first half of the novel alternates between June’s first person narration and third person flashbacks to their childhood. Then the Gone-Girl-like twist occurs and the narrative format changes. The “suicide” notes are interspersed throughout the novel, and Delia’s death is not the only one under suspicion, as the readers learn. While the twist is not improbable, the added characters who have all dropped out of society is. In the final chapters, June must decide if she, too, will allow her present life to drop away and join this band of misfits. Unfortunately, it is left up to the reader to decide what the final suicide note really means. A psychological thriller/mystery appropriate for high school and college-aged students due to drug and sexual situations.
This novel is third from a list of if-you-liked-Gone-Girl-then-read-these for young adults. It is possible that this book suffers from being the third of the books that I have read from this list and the third in a row over winter break. But I don’t think so; I think the creator of the list organized the books from most possible to least possible. Of the three, I enjoyed Vanished and will recommend to our media specialist that it be purchased for our library. While I will tell my students about both Damage Done and Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls, I don’t feel compelled to tell my colleagues that they need to read either book nor do I want to nominate either book for ISLMA’s Abraham Lincoln Award.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ SPOILERS, STOP HERE!
So here’s the twist–Delia is not dead, which is easy to except. She claims that her stepfather attempted to rape her, and she has been planting this as a possibility since she met June in 6th grade. The impossible is that Delia has found a group of three other young adults (late teens/early twenties) who have all faked their deaths, assumed new names, and live however they please. With a trash bag full of cash that is never explained. To add to the impossibility, these are not people who are helping the abused escape a domestic situation; these are four people, including Delia, who destroy others. Sebastian seems to have a conscious, but Evan, Ashling, and Delia take too much delight in their destruction. Now June has to decide if she wants to be like them, if Delia has trapped her into joining them, or if she can return to her junior year of high school. The final suicide note, June’s, could be the first legitimate suicide note if Delia died two chapters earlier. Or it could be a complete fake if June has decided to join. Or it could be a forgery by Ashling, who has already proven her prowess at forgery, to cover up June’s murder. And the reader will never know.
My complaints with this book are similar to those for Damage Done. The adults are non-existent or are hapless. The second-to-last chapter implies that Delia has been a sociopath for the entire novel, but could she really have contained her tendencies for the past five years simply because June was her friend? That seems unlikely. And while I found the ending of Damage Done to be unrealistic, I am willing to accept it because there is some resolution. Even Gone Girl, the book moreso than the movie, has a conclusion with promise that justice will prevail eventually, which is also why I much prefer Vanished. But Suicide Notes has no resolution. How-did-it-end is entirely left up to the reader, which seems like a cop-out by Weingarten. If she couldn’t decide what should happen to her characters, why should we?