The Girl I Used To Be by April Henry

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The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry is an inventive, original, and fast paced novel about the past and the secrets it holds. Secrets that have the potential to destroy what fragile present has been built over the years.

“…It’s hard to believe that my parents were killed by some random stranger. I mean, why would a serial killer murder them and then let me live? But if it was someone my family knew, they might have felt a connection to me.’
‘Serial killers don’t murder every single person they come across.’ Duncan’s eyes look stormy. ‘They pick their targets. Maybe your parents fit and you didn’t.’
Or maybe Duncan just doesn’t want to believe it could be someone he knows.
I think of foster homes where I lived in fear but smiled for the caseworker. Or where the house was a pigsty unless a visit was scheduled. If I’ve learned anything in the past ten years, it’s that a lot of people have one face in public and another in private…”

“…Ariel? Ariel Benson…”

It’s a name Olivia hasn’t heard in years. It use to be her name. Her old name and now two cops were at her door and calling her by it. That could only mean one thing. They found him. They found her father. They had but it’s not quite what Olivia thinks it is.

Fourteen years ago, when Olivia was three, her mother was killed in the woods; stabbed nineteen times. Someone then took Olivia to a Walmart and left her there and then that same someone disappeared. For years everyone, Olivia included, believed that someone had been her father. Only now the cops were at her door and telling her that they found a body, or at least pieces of a body not far from where her mother had been found. A body that had been her father. This could only mean that her father had not killed her mother and he had died as well on that day. So who killed them? Who took the three year old Ariel Benson and dropped her off at a Walmart?

Olivia heads back to her hometown and under her new name, watches as her father is buried. She watches as a town mourns a second time over this horrific event. A town mourns and comes to realize that it is possible, that a killer still walks among them.

In full disclosure, I want to point out that the copy of this novel that I received from NetGalley was an uncorrected digital galley and possibly not the finished product.

The Girl I Used To Be starts off powerfully, with the revelation that the father she has hated all her life was innocent of murdering her mother and quite possibly was also killed trying to defend her; Olivia struggles with the emotions threatening to tear her apart. This is the catalyst that sends her to her hometown to mourn her father and see the people who had convicted him in their hearts and deserted her as a small child. Olivia is convinced that one of them is the killer and is determined to find out the truth of what happened to her parents and herself that day in the woods.

The issue is that somewhere along the way, this book goes from adult thriller to teenage murder mystery to a point where you almost expect Shaggy and Scooby to make an appearance. There is a passage toward the end of the book where one of the characters speaking to Olivia, refers to the murdered couple as Olivia’s dead parents. Then pages later, the same character acts as if they just figured out Olivia’s identity. If they just figured out her identity then why refer the murdered couple as her dead parents just pages before. Another part where in a dream state, Olivia thinks of her parents and refers to them by name, only she get’s her father’s name wrong.

Again, uncorrected galley, yes…but still.

This book started off so strong that where it ended up and how it does is too quick and too neat and just levels of storytelling below where it began.

A good story with lots of potential that just failed for me on execution.


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