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‘Billie didn’t come home. No one knows where she is.’
‘Find Me’ …. ‘Because I promised her I would.’

Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin is one of the most thrilling, disturbing, thought-provoking and clever stories we’ve read in a while. Told in the POV of eleven-year-old Thera Wilde, we experience utter tragedy, confusion, despair, resilience, bravery, and horror. Having Thera narrate this story was genius as it added an emotional perspective which was not only -in our opinion- necessary, it also ensured that we experienced and saw an important side of a tragedy so abhorrent and what followed on from there. However, we were completely aware that this was a child’s interpretation of the events which unfolded.

‘Ask me literally any question about Billie, and I will be able to answer it, and if you asked her if I was right, she would say I always would be. If I don’t know Billie May Brooke, no one ever will.’

Thera and Billie are best of friends and in their last year of primary school. The year is 1999 and the girls are inseparable. Two innocent girls living and playing a game of an imaginary make believe world after school in the fields of their small village. The comparison made between Billie and Thera and other girls in their same school year is quite stark, showing varying degrees of maturity, sexual awareness and life skills. This not only being an age thing but also a direct result of parental upbringing and social differences. The greatest measure is when an ugly tragedy strikes. Being inside the head and experiencing the thought processes of an eleven year old girl was harrowing, upsetting and frustrating as a parent ourselves.

‘Sometimes I feel like I am built for the bad times, and that’s a thought that does actually shake me up. Who wants to be built for the bad times? To know the right place for you is a place no one else wants to be?’

The musings and reconciliations of adult actions by eleven year old Thera are quite eye opening in Dead Girls. The way in which she is portrayed is not only extremely heart-breaking and at odds with adult interpretation. It’s also incredibly thought provoking, you start questioning your own heart, morals and parenting attitude. Thera knows and is determined that she must find Billie, because she believes the police and adults are failing her best friend. Not only that, Thera is convinced that Billie is not the only victim at the hands of ‘the pervert’. She begins a journey of trying to emulate what Billie must have gone through in order to understand what truly happened. She hopes it will lead her to the predator who snatched and did unspeakable things to her best friend.

‘I must have fallen asleep because after that I keep seeing Billie, pale and dead. I see other faces too…’
“Why are you haunting me? I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but I can’t save you. I’m just eleven! I can’t do anything for you.”

How much truth and honesty is appropriate to share with your child when a sick and horrific act takes your daughter’s best friend away forever? It’s certainly a fine line between scaremongering and educating. Not only that, do we inadvertently impart on our children that touching is okay by adults as a kind and caring gesture. Do we draw the line at parental touch, grandparents touch, or even people of authority? It really gave us pause for thought and is definitely something to think about and act upon.

‘They want me to stay innocent, but I suspect the time for that has passed.’

Dead Girls is a haunting psychological thriller with an element of the ‘ghostly’ which will chill you to the bone. We felt uncomfortable, we despaired and we felt helpless as we read, wondering what was true and what could likely be the figments of an eleven year old’s imagination. This story is very confronting as we know it features a reality entirely possible. We had a hard time with our conflicting feelings for Thera and the world as this eleven year old sees it. A brilliant compelling read that had us turning the pages in awe at the writing and the chilling content.

“When you found out…why didn’t you come and get us?”
“Because you wouldn’t have believed me. No one believes kids, or listens to them. I had to take matters into my own hands.”


When her best friend Billie is found murdered, eleven-year-old Thera – fearless and forthright – considers it her duty to find the killer.

Aided by a Ouija board, Billie’s ghost, and the spirits of four other dead girls, she’s determined to succeed. The trouble with Thera, though, is that she doesn’t always know when to stop – and sometimes there’s a fine line between doing the right thing and doing something very, very bad indeed.

Tense, visceral and thought-provoking, Dead Girls is the new novel from Abigail Tarttelin, the critically acclaimed author of Golden Boy.

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One Comment:

  1. Dana Dean said:

    Is Dead Girls no longer available in ebook format?


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