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July 27, 2017

#BookReview: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

by Donna Huber

I was invited to review Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka because I had read similar books such as All the Missing Girls, yet this was unlike any book I've read recently. I'm not sure if this difference is a good thing or not.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free ARC was provided for an honest review.

Girl in Snow
August 2017; Simon & Schueter; 978-1501144370
ebook, audio, print (368 pages); mystery, literary

What I loved about the book was the mystery. Who killed Lucinda Hayes? We are sent on twists and turns as alibis and motives are doled out in pieces. The focus on each member of this small community slightly different depending on whose chapter it is. You will at one point think 'that is who did it' only to wonder 'maybe not' a chapter later. Even as the murderer is revealed part of you will be thinking, no that isn't really the murderer.

If impossible to solve 'who done its' are your cup of tea, then definitely add Girl in Snow to your reading list.

What I really didn't like about the novel were the three main characters who tell the story. I love character driven stories and with the deep dive into the lives and minds of these characters, I should have been wanting to turn pages faster than I could read. But characters themselves rubbed me the wrong way. They are all outskirts of what is probably considered the social norm. Maybe it is because of the close look into their thoughts that made it more difficult to like them.

Russ, the cop, gave me the creeps. I couldn't tell for sure if he was in love with Cameron's dad or just wanted his life - a life with Cameron and his mom. I felt bad for Russ's wife. I almost think that if Russ had been a secondary character, there only to provide insight into the investigation, I would have liked the book more.

Cameron, the anti-social kid, is also a bit creepy, but not in the same sense as Russ. It is never explicitly stated but I wonder if he is on the autism spectrum. It would explain some of his anti-social behavior and obsessions. He is a gifted artist, but he only really seems to want to draw Lucinda. He is in love with her and he thinks in a secret way she is in love with him too. He sneaks out at night to spy on her and her family (and sometimes other neighbors). If he is autistic, I don't think he is getting the support he needs at home. His dad is gone (fled after being arrested for the murder of a young woman, conveniently evidence that would have convicted him disappeared) and his mom is dealing not with the abandonment of her husband (both in terms of being absent as well as having cheated on her with the young woman). Towards the end, I kind of warmed up to him.

Jade, the goth girl who knows more than she is saying, is the only one I kind of liked. Her sarcasm and refusal to be part of the mainstream are largely due to the abuse at home and the rejection by her best friend, I think. Unfortunately, it seemed like less of the story was focused on her - that even as a main character she is in the shadows.

What I'm undecided on about the story is how it is told. Kukafka is clearly a talented writer, but I don't think the method in which the story is told worked well for me.

There is often attention to details, like crusty toothbrushes and descriptions of condiment bottles, that weighed the story down.

Also, the deep dive into the thoughts of Russ, Cameron, and Jade left the mystery of Lucinda's death feeling like it was more a subplot instead of the focus of the story. Therefore, the character's storylines sometimes veered off into tangents that had little to do with the murder. And I was clearly drawn to the murder and wanted to keep the focus there.

There is also little direct dialogue. At one point I even flipped back through a few pages because I was starting to wonder if there was actually any direct dialogue; it is that sparsely used. Instead, conversations are often told through the lens of whoever's chapter it is. While the unreliableness of it increased the mystery element, I wonder if it isn't also what made the novel feel dense and slow to me. I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish it, but I did want to know who murdered Lucinda.

If I were to compare Kukafka to another writer I've read, I think her writing is similar to Tana French.

I'm still as undecided on how I really feel about this novel as I was when I turned the last page on July 1. I loved the mystery; Kukafka definitely has a knack for keeping the reader guessing. I think the elements I didn't like in the story are a matter of personal taste or perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for this type of story. It did feel like it should be read on a cold, winter day instead of in the sunshine of summer.

You can get your copy on August 1 and make up your own mind.

Buy Girl in Snow at Amazon

(There's a giveaway that ends on July 29 at

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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