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Girl in Snow: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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PRAISE FOR GIRL IN SNOWBY DANYA KUKAFKA
*Best Summer Reads of 2017 Selection by * W Magazine * Marie Claire * Elle * goop * Yahoo! * Refinery29 * PureWow * Domino * InStyle.com * Today.com *
"From its startling opening line right through to its stunning conclusion, Girl in Snow is a perfectly-paced and tautly-plotted thriller. Danya Kukafka's misfit characters are richly drawn, her prose is both elegant and eerie—this is an incredibly accomplished debut.”
—Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
“A sensational debut—great characters, mysteries within mysteries, and page-turning pace. Highly recommended.”
—Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels
“An exciting debut from a talented new voice. Girl in Snow is a propulsive mystery set in a suburban community marked by unsettling voyeurism. Danya Kukafka patiently reveals layers of her characters’ inner lives—their ugliness and vulnerabilities—in prose that sparkles and wounds. I couldn’t put this one down.”
—Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
“There is a frightful truth to Danya Kukafka's characterizations, and the mystery at the heart of Girl in Snow is so elegantly constructed. It's an exceptional, unnerving debut novel. I'm already counting the days until her next one.”
—Owen King, author of Double Feature and co-author of Sleeping Beauties
"Girl in Snow is a haunting, lyrical novel about love, loss, and terror. Reading it felt like entering another world, where things—and people—were not as they at first appeared. The world Kukafka so masterfully creates is suspenseful and electrifying; I was willing to follow her wherever she took me."
—Anton DiSclafani, New York Times bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The After Party
“Elegiac and involving… engagingly told… its endearing characters’ struggles linger in memory after this affecting work is done.”
—Wall Street Journal
"No AC? No problem—this icy novel brings the chills...With a knack for writing oh-so-real teenage characters and underline-worthy prose, [Kukafka] weaves a tale of voyeurism and obsession that’s impossible to put down."
—WMagazine.com, Top Ten New Books to Read in August
"Newcomer Kukafka breathes new life into a common mystery trope...This smart, fast-paced novel is one that readers will be proud to flaunt beachside or elsewhere."
"Kukafka’s clever narrative tricks...propel the narrative forward. And while the novel employs a full checklist of teen tropes throughout, from abusive parents to fractured love triangles, there is enough narrative muscle to compel the reader to stick with it until the end."
"Kukafka attempts to subvert preconceptions, principally of what is expected of the thriller genre, but succeeds more pointedly in destabilizing the biases toward illegal immigration, mental illness, law enforcement, and presentations of sexuality sewn into our country’s fabric…Kukafka expertly plays with the idealization of the golden girl, with what it means to be seen as female. One of the more surprising aspects of the book is its audacious dissection of this femininity... By weaving these narrative perspectives together…we gain heightened intimacy and understanding of three unique psychologies and are also forced to reckon with our own preconceived notions of beauty, gender, mental ability, and various manifestations of power…The characters in Girl in Snow often rail against the ways they are perceived, but are nevertheless begging to be seen, asking for an audience; they seek a space to express themselves. This duality, of wanting to exist while not wanting to be categorized or wrongly labeled or objectified, is as much the novel’s core as the murder mystery itself. Kukafka is shrewd to remind us that as readers, we too are indulging in the spectacle."
“One of the more interesting thrillers to come out this summer…more of a subtle, well-developed character study than murder mystery, though there are some good twists when it comes to that, too. In short, it’s a great beach read.”
“Combining elements of Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family with Dennis Lehane's contemporary classic Mystic River, Danya Kukafka’s debut novel is an intricate, seductive murder mystery, in which a single awful crime exposes conflicts and traumas in an entire community…Girl in Snow is not just an impressive debut but one of the best literary mysteries to come along in some time.”
"This brooding and intense thriller will plunge readers into a dark world they may not want to enter—but they may be unable to tear themselves free…This unlikely trio of narrators gives readers a different look into the idyllic, small-town life, and how not everything is as it appears on the surface."
"Hard to believe this whodunit is from a fist-time author. Think Gillian Flynn of 2017."
“A cool literary mystery to get you through the season's heat."
"Danya Kukafka makes a compelling case for the next Girl on the Train with a fast-paced thriller about a young girl whose body is found on a school playground in the dead of winter, leaving an obsessive loner, a jealous classmate, and a police officer as the prime suspects."
—InStyle.com, 5 Page-Turning Books You Should Read in August
About the Author
Danya Kukafka is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She currently works as an assistant editor at Riverhead books. Girl in Snow is her first novel.
Top customer reviews
First and foremost- this isn't a feel good novel. The story concerns a young teenage girl who is murdered in a playground- the murder is discussed, but not to grotesque ends, nor is the topic used exploitatively. The suspects in the murder - the boyfriend, the mentally unstable boy who has been stalking her, a vengeful classmate, a warm young teacher, a shady janitor- all have their own secrets and stories, but the beauty of this novel is that nothing turns out the way you expect it to- each of these "sinners" have secrets and as the novel unfolds, your expectations about each of these characters is upended.
Like I said, this isn't a light novel. The characters are all very flawed and have pretty much given up on the idea that there's any reason left for living. But ultimately, the search for the truth ends up being a chance for salvation for many of them. The key to this book's success, at least for me, was how readable it was. I admit that I devoured this novel in two sittings- I don't know if it would have been as readable if I dipped in and out, like I usually do with books.
I think the tone of the characters reminded me a lot of "Girl on a Train"- definite "hot mess" category, with more tragedy. I'm normally super sensitive to tragic characters, but again, this book was so well written that I couldn't help but be swept up in the story.
Warning: this is one brief incident of animal abuse that is referenced in this book- I'm normally the kind of person who is incredibly sensitive to that topic and avoid anything with even a remote chance of that even being brought up. But the scene was very quick, not descriptive, and there was no suffering (it matters to me even if it is fiction). I just thought i would mention that in case anyone out there is super sensitive to that issue- avoid the kid's campout scene. You won't miss anything in the general plot.
If you like a good "who done it?" and can handle the realities of mental illness and the things that lurk in the shadows of even the safest of suburban neighborhoods, I recommend this book. Like I said- not a light read, and won't leave you feeling like the world is a wonderful place, but the characters are redeemed, the mystery surprises, and the book is hard to put down if you can get invested.
“‘Why are you telling me this?’
“’I’m just saying. We know this fact, but it doesn’t stop us from staring.’”
Half a century ago, a young writer named Harper Lee took the literary world by storm with To Kill a Mockingbird, a story that centered itself on justice, on a child trying to do the right thing, and on a strange, misunderstood fellow named Boo Radley. Today the literary world meets wunderkind Danya Kukafka. Get used to the name, because I suspect you’ll be seeing a lot of it. Her story also revolves around misunderstood characters with dark pasts, and a small town’s often misdirected quest to see justice done and safety restored.
Thank you Simon and Schuster and also Net Galley for inviting me to read and review in exchange for this honest review. I’ve read and reviewed a lot of galleys this summer, but right now this is the only one I want to talk about.
So back to our story. We have three narratives, all from unhappy characters, all of them watching, watching, watching. Our protagonist is Cameron Whitley, a troubled, “Tangled” adolescent that has spent his evenings secretly following a popular, attractive classmate named Lucinda. He watches her through the windows of her house. He stares at her in her bedroom, and he does other things, too. Cameron has a troubled past, his father gone now after a storm of controversy destroyed his reputation and left his family hanging in tatters. And now that Lucinda is dead, the investigators have to look hard at Cameron. We do, too. We can see that Cameron is grieving, but of course, people often grieve the people they have killed. Grief doesn’t always denote innocence.
“Cameron stood outside Maplewood Memorial and wondered how many bodies it held that did not belong to Lucinda. How many blue, unbending thumbs. How many jellied hearts.”
As the story proceeds, we hear a third person omniscient narrative of Cameron, though it doesn’t choose to tell us everything. Not yet. We also hear two alternate narratives, those of Jade, Cameron’s classmate, and of Russ, the cop that was Cameron’s father’s partner before things unraveled.
Jade is friendless and frustrated, an overweight teen with iffy social skills, unhappy in love. Her home life is disastrous, her alcoholic mother monstrously abusive. Jade could be out of that house in a New York minute if she’d out her mother, but instead she turns her anger toward herself. After all, she provokes her mother. The bruises, the cuts, the blackened eye all signs that she has pushed her mom too far.
And so, bereft of healthier peer relationships, Jade watches Cameron watch Lucinda. She doesn’t have to leave home to do it; she has a box seat, so to speak, at her bedroom window. Standing there and looking down on a good clear night, she can see Cameron sequestered behind the bushes or trees, and she can see Lucinda, who doesn’t seem to know what curtains and window blinds are for. Ultimately Jade befriends Cameron, who is frankly afraid to trust her. And he may be right.
Russ is the third main character whose narrative we follow. As a child, he always thought it would be awesome to carry a gun and put handcuffs on bad guys. “He memorized the Mirandas…playing with a toy cop car on the back porch…Russ had a lisp as a kid. You have the wight to wemain siwent.”
So his dream has come true; why isn’t he a happier man? Again and again we see the ugly things Russ does and the ugly reasons he does them, but just as it appears he’s going to become a stereotypic character, Kukafka adds nuance and ambiguity, and we see that underneath that swinish exterior is the heart of…no, not a lion. He’s really not that great a guy. But we see his confusion, his dilemmas, the aspects of his “bruised yellow past” that motivate him. He isn’t a hero, but he is capable of loving, and of doing good. And he doesn’t want to frame a kid for Lucinda’s murder, especially not his partner’s kid. He wants to know the truth.
Interesting side characters are Russ’s wife, Ines, and Ines’s brother Ivan, the school custodian that is caught in the crosshairs of the investigation.
Ultimately, though, the story is about Cameron, and Kukafka’s electrifying prose makes my thoughts roll back and forth like a couple dozen tennis balls left on deck when the ship hits choppy seas. Poor Cameron! He didn’t do this…and then, whoa, Cameron is seriously creepy here. Maybe he actually did it. I spend much of my time trying to decipher how deeply troubled this lad is—those of us in education and other fields that work with teenagers would undoubtedly deem him an ‘at-risk’ child—and how far he has gone.
Is Cameron the Boo Radley of 2017, misunderstood and falsely vilified; or is he a Gary Gilmore, a John Wayne Gacy?
Clearly, I’m not going to tell you. That would ruin it for you. The one thing I will say is that the ending is not left ambiguous. This isn’t the sort of book you throw across the room when you’ve read the last page.
In addition, know that there is plenty of edgy material here. Those considering offering this book to a teen as summer reading may wish to read it themselves before passing it on. I would cheerfully have handed it to my own teens, but your standards and mine may differ.
If you can read this book free or at a reduced price, lucky you. If you have to pay full freight: do it. Do it. Do it.