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The Girl She Used to Be Paperback – March 10, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After 20 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) and eight aliases, Melody Grace McCartney hardly knows who she is. On the run since she and her parents stumbled on a gruesome murder by mobster Tony Bovaro when she was six years old, Grace saw WITSEC’s promised protection fail her mother and father when they were killed 12 years later. Now she feigns personal danger to be relocated just because she’s bored and wants a change. But before her new case officer can move her from suburban Maryland to rural Wisconsin, Tony’s son, Jonathan, tracks her down to present an alternative: protection from his family and a life of more safety and freedom than she has ever known. While federal officials pressure her to stay in WITSEC and show her Jonathan’s violent side, her attraction to him grows, and she must decide a course for the rest of her life. This is a compulsively readable, skillfully constructed first novel with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns to what seems the best possible conclusion, marking Cristofano as a writer to watch. --Michele Leber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"What a riveting and remarkable first novel! The story grabbed me on page one. As the events spin forward, with crackling dialogue and earned surprises, you can't help but root for this most unusual, and lovable narrator--whatever her secret name or home may be at the moment. I didn't want the book to end; I didn't want to leave the wild, wooly wonderfully frightening world that David Cristofano has created. With a poignant and literary flair, this novel fixed my jones for "The Sopranos.""
--Lolly Winston, New York Times bestselling author of GOOD GRIEF and HAPPINESS SOLD SEPARATELY

"...something special..."
--New York Times Book Review

"Intense...the emotions of a woman caught in Melody's unlikely scenario ring deliciously, scarily true."

"David Cristofano's debut novel is alternately thought-provoking, poignant, and darkly funny. THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE hooked me from the very first page."
--Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of WHISTLING IN THE DARK and LAND OF A HUNDRED WONDERS

"Intense, romantic debut...Cristofano's mad love scenario sizzles like garlic in hot olive oil."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This is a compulsively readable, skillfully constructed first novel with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns to what seems the best possible conclusion, marking Cristofano as a writer to watch!"

"THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is everything I want a book to be. A humorous, poignant, and compelling page-turner that kept me guessing all the way to the end. I marveled at how utterly I was drawn into Melody's world and what a vivid picture David Cristofano created."
--Patricia Wood, New York Times bestselling author of LOTTERY

"I absolutely fell in love with David Cristofano's writing, and couldn't wait to see Melody's mystery unfold. THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is that rare novel...it's the one you've been looking for when you wander the bookstore aisles, hoping to find something that will grab hold of you and not let go. Eloquent, haunting, and totally enthralling--I was swept in from page one."
--Johanna Edwards, nationally bestselling author of HOW TO BE COOL

"David Cristofano artfully explores the meaning of identity and home, heroes and villains, in this story of a woman who loses herself, then finds herself again in the most unlikely place. THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is a roller-coaster ride, both thriller and riveting psychological drama, and Cristofano is definitely a writer to watch for."
--Elizabeth Arnold, bestselling author of PROMISE THE MOON

"David Cristofano's debut novel captures the essence of the human spirit, and delivers a story that is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking."
--Brad Listi, author of ATTENTION. DEFICIT. DISORDER

"There's no hiding the fact that THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is a brilliant debut by a magnificent new novelist."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (March 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446582212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446582216
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kelly Slater on March 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thought this would be an interesting read. I have always been fascinated by the witness protection program, and I often thought about what happens if you are found? I had no idea how much I would enjoy this book.

There are few authors who can keep me reading all night until I finish a book. David Cristofano just may be one of them. I did have to put this book down because I had things that I HAD to do that were work related, but boy was it hard!!!! The very act of his writing in Melody's point of view was incredibly believable. It was nice hearing a woman's voice that sounded so true. I don't know how he did it so well. The man really had a touch on the pulse of this character. I have often groaned at how perfect a female is played or how sappy. It was great reading about a character who is lovely in description without being described as the typical full lipped, bright eyed exotic beauty with the typical too full hips and breasts. It gets a little dull picturing blond, brunette and read headed Angelina Jolies all the timme. David Cristofano created a character in Melody that was simply beautifully real. I could relate to Melody. She was quick witted and quirky.

Pros...romantic but not wishy washy in your face with butterflies and birds chirping on every page. Romantic tension built up and played out superbly.

Pros...characters you wanted to see succeed. I became immediately invested in both Melody and Jonathan.

Pros...realistic. In the long run the ending totally makes sense and is true to life.

Cons...the book ended. I loved it and wanted more!

I will definitely be keeping my eye open for more books by David Cristofano. This was an absolutely splendid piece of work. Cristofano is definitely an author to watch.
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Format: Hardcover
In the debut novel, The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano, little Melody McCartney was only six years old when she and her parents witnessed a brutal murder. The family was placed into the federal Witness Protection Program and Melody spent her childhood moving from one city to another, from one name to another. Twenty years later, Melody is alone, using the Program to start over when boredom and ennui strike her. During the process of "starting over", a man approaches her and calls her by her real name. Melody finds the lure of being with someone who actually knows her, knows her past, her name, the real her, so irresistible, she defies the feds and goes with the man. This man is Jonathan Bovaro, the son of the mafia crime boss who started everything when Melody was six. Who can she trust? The federal government who she knows sees her as a pawn in their effort to bring down the Bovaro crime family? Or Jonathan, the son of the man who destroyed her life?

First, a disclaimer, I don't usually like Mob books or movies. I know, it's a wildly popular genre, but I've just never been all that interested. That said, I really liked The Girl She Used to Be. I've read many reviews that commented how difficult it was to believe that the author was male, and I've thought, "Hm, that's an odd thing to mention". But now that I've read the book, I understand what they mean. Cristofano's dialogue and thoughts are spot on, and the voice of Melody is authentic. And the other reviewers are right, when I stopped to think about it, it did seem surprising.

The Girl She Used to Be works on many levels. Superficially, it's an interesting story, about a young woman finally discovering whom she could be when allowed to choose for herself. But it's also a story about new beginnings, about each of us.
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Format: Hardcover
I was blown away by this book. The powerful evocative imagery is something that can be elusive in novels, but here it was crystal clear. I found myself rooting for the "good" and the "bad" guy in this book, and I wonder if that is what the author intended. To skew the lines, and show that sometimes, there really is no escaping your family and the footsteps they've laid out for you.

Melody McCartney has spent the last twenty years of her life being someone else. Several someone elses in fact. It wasn't that she wasn't content with herself. She was stripped of the choice when, at six years old, she and her parents witnessed a murder carried out by a mafia boss. Due to her childish inability to remember her new identity, her third identity was doled out pretty quickly also. Now, at 26, Melody is alone, her parents long ago having been found and taken care of.

Now she gets the itch every now and then, the resentment of not knowing who she is, who she could have been, and tells the Feds she's been found. In the midst of one more life change, she is found. By none other than the boss's son, Jonathan Bovaro. His tactics are strange to her, and her analytical, mathematically inclined mind never lets go of the knowledge of he is and what he's after, but she trusts him and goes willingly. The journey they set out on is a dangerous one, and you hope for the best possible outcome.

I've been doing really well at not reading the back of the book first, but I almost couldn't help peeking at the end of the story. I am so glad I didn't! There was nothing predictable about this story at all. There were a couple of points I almost cried and while I'm disappointed in the ending of the book, I am in no way disappointed at the writing of the book from start to finish.
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