Review of American Girl by Wendy Walker
This is another whodunit winner from Wendy Walker: a character-driven mystery with a neurodivergent main protagonist, small-town intrigue, and satisfying revenge.
I began to form rules like math equations. When this happens, people act that way and say those things. When that happens, people act this way and say other things. And those rules stayed in my head, each and every one. I realized I could use them to prepare for whatever was coming. To protect myself.
Charlie is a math-whiz teen with autism who is working as much as possible at The Triple S sandwich shop so that she can one day afford to leave her Pennsylvania hometown and attend MIT.
But when the shop owner, Clay Cooper, who owns several other local businesses, is a town council member, and has his hand in most of the local business, turns up dead, everyone becomes a suspect, including all of his employees.
Charlie must help discover the truth about what happened in order to clear her coworkers--and Charlie herself--from suspicion of murder.
But it becomes clear that Clay was in deep with some seedy characters, and key elements of the mystery of his death stretch back decades--intersecting with Charlie's own family.
Charlie is whip-smart intelligent in her evaluation of the facts of the complicated series of events. She is also somewhat closed off emotionally (this seems to be connected to her autism). She has a difficult relationship with her stepfather and her mother, who loves Charlie deeply but manipulates others in order to get by. (Side note: the storyline concerning the scholarship and her stepfather had me on the verge of screaming with frustration on Charlie's behalf.)
She was describing things I already knew about myself that I thought no one else had noticed because I was so good at pretending.
Her longtime friend and could-be love is a steady, supportive force in the background of her life--but Charlie has developed heartbreaking relationship "rules" that prevent her from becoming attached, for fear that she won't be strong enough to leave town and make her mark on the world.
I loved Charlie as our main protagonist. She is not exactly an unreliable narrator, but it does turn out that she's been withholding key information from the reader. I was fascinated, watching her knowledge creep out and its implications unfold, while she discovered essential facts that change everything.
I appreciated the choice to have main protagonist Charlie be neurodivergent--and to name the book about her American Girl.
Wendy Walker writes wonderful, character-driven suspense that keeps me hooked as she guides the reader through a twisty mystery. The fierce loyalty and revenge elements in this intriguing whodunit were immensely satisfying.
I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?