Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

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Release date: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Crown Publishing 

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart. 


I’ve been struggling with this review, this book has left me feeling really conflicted and I have a feeling that I won’t be the only person who winds up feeling like this once they finish this book. There were as many strong aspects to it as there were weaker ones for me, and this is also a difficult one to review anyway based on the subject matter alone, but I’ll do my very best. 

This is told from Then and Now, then being the one summer Lane spent with her mothers family and now being when Allegra goes missing and she heads back to help find her. There are also several chapters, one for each Roanoke girl there ever was. I actually probably enjoyed those the most, there was something chilling about their accounts of what was happening behind closed doors. The Roanoke family is seriously messed up, I don’t even think the word dysfunctional begins to describe the family secret they’re all hiding. While the secret is revealed pretty early on, I’m still not comfortable discussing it here, but as much as the what shocked me, the actual manner in which it was revealed was lackluster and left me wanting a bit more drama. I wouldn’t even really label this a thriller, I would call it a mystery at the most. There wasn’t that sense of urgency that thrillers always have, I think in part because the huge secret was outed so quickly. There was another twist in the end but it was obvious to me and I had worked it out easily. Perhaps if I hadn’t I would’ve been more satisfied. 

I have to give credit to the addictive writing of Engel, there was something mesmerizing about this story that urged me to keep reading even though the subject matter was taboo and forbidden. Nothing was over the top and graphic though, she handled the situation as pleasantly as possible. I found myself wondering what the hell was wrong with me for being so enraptured by this twisted family. This will definitely be one with strong fans and those on the opposite side who can’t stomach the unsettling story or even buy into the plausibility of it actually happening. I’m honestly right in the middle, I can see both sides. If you’ve read it I would love to know how you feel!

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to Crown Publishing for my review copy. 

22 thoughts on “Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

  1. Renee says:

    I think I’d be one who had a hard time with the subject matter and buying into the plausibility you mentioned. Excellent review!! Sometimes middle of the road reviews are the hardest to write as we’ve talked about before:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Annie says:

    That’s true, those are the hardest to write… As you know, I loved it, but while I was reading it I already knew it wouldn’t be for everyone. It’s a polemic book no doubt XD

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Katherine says:

    I really enjoyed your review- very honest and very articulate. I enjoyed the book a lot but I do like dysfunctional!!! The best thing about sharing our thoughts is when we all find different things in a book!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    While you may not have connected with this one as well as I did, your review is pretty spot on! I have to agree that simply put.. her writing just continues to pull you in. It most certainly was addictive.

    I agree that this really isn’t a thriller at all. I had a hard time labeling it period. Mystery seem almost inappropriate in the sense that she hands us so much in the beginning. But there is a slight bit of who dunnit so I stuck with that.

    Fabulous! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susie | Novel Visits says:

    I had some of the same issues as you. I was okay with the big family’ “issue,” but felt that the why behind it was never well explained. Instead it was just accepted by everyone in the family and that really bothered me. It was a compelling book to read despite its flaws. It’s a fun one to banter about!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Megan @ bookslayerReads says:

    Great review! Although I’m a tad sad that it wasn’t better since I’ve been wanting to read this one. But I think I’ll still give it a shot!

    Liked by 1 person

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