Editorial note: I received a copy of The It Girl in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
The It Girl by Ruth Ware is an entertaining mystery. One of the best I’ve read in a long time!
Ruth Ware is one of the most popular mystery and thriller writers out there today. I haven’t read much of her work, just One by One, which I thought was fine but didn’t really stand out to me. However, The It Girl is really well done! It’s a good combination of an interesting character study as well as a murder mystery.
Before becoming a mom, this is the type of novel I would have flown through and read in one sitting. It has that addictive, you have to know what’s about to happen, kind of feel. But I don’t have the time to read a novel in one sitting with an 18-month-old who is always on the move! So I took my time with it and I’m actually really starting to enjoy the slower pace style of reading. I find myself thinking about the novels more and especially in a mystery, wondering—who did it?
What’s the Story About
We read the story entirely from the perspective of Hannah Jones—both during her freshman year at Oxford and in the present. When she arrived to Oxford, the first person she met was the outgoing April Clarke-Cliveden. April came from wealth and has that ‘it’ girl quality. She could be a brat, selfish, mean while at the same time, caring and thoughtful.
It doesn’t take longer for Hannah to be sucked into her orbit and soon enough, they develop a crew with a couple other classmates—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.
Now it’s a decade later and Hannah and Will are married and expecting their first child together. The man convicted of killing April, porter John Neville, has died in prison. But instead of closing the door on the painful memories, a journalist investigating the case, reopens old wounds. And has Hannah questioning if John was indeed the killer? And if he wasn’t, who was?
Hannah goes on a journey to find out the truth and as she reconnects with old friends, she starts to question everything she thought she knew.
Overall, I thought Hannah is pretty compelling. I do think her being pregnant added more tension to the story especially as she goes deeper and deeper into the investigation. I liked reading about her past at Oxford and relationship with April. Their friendship is interesting—initially it seemed stereotypical with rich girl/shy girl dynamic but there’s much more there. I do think Hannah saw something different in April than anyone else did.
While I do like Hannah, I will say I think this story could have used a multi-perspective approach. I was curious to learn more about the friendship group and we could have used their perspectives as well. We get it a little bit through Hannah’s interactions but I would have liked to have more.
That’s probably my only true criticism of the story—that it was a bit too much focused on Hannah, when the other friends seemed interesting too.
When I worked as a trade journalist, I used to enjoy listening to true crime podcasts during my travels. I’ve since gotten away from those but I do like when fiction stories feature a journalist trying to find the truth about previous cases through the podcast format. While the journalist in the story is not the smoothest operator, he definitely opens up a can of worms for Hannah as she slowly discovers there’s much more to the case than realized.
I found myself pointing the finger at many of the characters— I think trying to solve the mystery is part of the fun of reading these stories.
I found this to be an engaging and even insightful story about image, perception, friendship and more. My favorite mysteries do a deep dive on the characters and this more than delivered on that front. While I do think it would have benefited to have more characters give their input, I still very much enjoyed the novel.
If you’re looking for a solid mystery, this is a great choice for you. For book clubs, check out my questions here.