The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia Smith was released in 2017 by Akashic Books. The concept is good, a lesbian couple living a small New England town where a horrific murder of a young boy occurs. There are so many ways to build a story around this. Though I was ultimately disappointed, this is a four-star read. There is an audience for this style of writing that will definitely enjoy the book.
This review from Publishers Weekly is a good example of the general theme of the reviews: “A tense story about a small town swept up in bigotry and paranoia after the brutal murder of a local boy sends the residents into a frenzied witch hunt . . . Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to realistic moral ambiguity make for a provoking read.”
Bigotry, paranoia, racism, homophobia, adolescent confusion, and relationship issues are all covered in the story. Frankly, I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed because Smith ties all of these elements together. My dislike for this style of writing is the excess explanation of a situation or what a character is thinking/feeling.
I wasn’t provoked by the story, though I wanted to smack a few of the characters. I also didn’t find much tension. The opening is excellent, leading me to higher expectations for nefariousness, grit, and shock. That didn’t happen. Maybe I’m just numb, or have too much experience, but my tension meter didn’t start ticking until the Town Hall meeting.
All this said, the writing moved along and kept me reading. As a society, we remain facing an uphill battle towards equity, and this story is just one of many tales in this regard.