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The Girls Are All So Nice Here


The Girls Are All So Nice Here

In her adult debut, THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn takes all the insecurities that come with being a young woman and combines them with the freedom of young adulthood and college for a combustible, hair-raising thriller about not-so-nice girls.

As a teenager, Ambrosia Wellington, nicknamed Amb, was beyond excited to leave her small town of Pennington, New Jersey, for Wesleyan College. Like all teens, she dreamed of meeting her future husband and bridesmaids in her dorm, expanding her mind and starting her career as an actress with a bang. But life did not go quite as planned for Amb. Now her 10-year reunion is here, and she knows without even looking at the scheduled festivities that she will never attend. Her husband, Adrian, five years her junior, has no idea what kind of girl she used to be, and she will do anything to erase that ambitious yet insecure young lady. But when Amb receives a note that says, “You need to come. We need to talk about what we did that night,” she knows that her past is out to get her and that she must return to Wesleyan to preserve her future.

"Having read Flynn’s young adult novels, I expected to enjoy THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, but I could not have prepared myself for how downright chilling this book is."

Alternating between Amb’s freshman year and her class reunion, Flynn quickly immerses her readers in those heady first days of college life, when everyone you meet is a new friend (or enemy) and life seems nearly limitless with potential. Arriving at Wesleyan, Amb is paired with Flora, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who radiates kindness. Flora immediately latches on to Amb, which is fine, but Amb doesn’t want to be the good girl’s best friend. She wants to befriend the loudest, crassest, most attention-worthy girl in Wesleyan’s freshman class: Sloane Sullivan. As Amb grows into her own person, shedding her Jersey girl UGGs and gaudy designer purses, she finally catches Sully’s eye, and the two begin attending parties together. With Stoli vodka filling every cup, cocaine dusting every mirror, and boys practically begging to touch them, Amb and Sully are at the top of Wesleyan’s social hierarchy --- but as we all know, fame and notoriety come with serious drawbacks.

Sully is a known adrenaline junkie, and finding other people’s weaknesses is her greatest joy. Desperate to impress Sully and stay in her orbit, Amb, too, starts to nourish a mean streak. From hookups with boys to cruel text messages and even strategic forced breakups, their friendship reads like a rollercoaster riding straight into a car crash. Tragedy seems inevitable, and when it finally comes, it changes Amb’s life forever. Although Amb eventually graduates from Wesleyan, she never speaks to Sully or Flora again, and she has spent the rest of her life trying to bury that fateful freshman year.

Now, a decade later, it is clear that someone knows about the night that ended Sully and Amb’s reign at Wesleyan. With that knowledge comes the power to destroy everything that she has worked so carefully to build, from her career to her marriage to the perfect guy. Back on Wesleyan’s campus, Amb is shocked to reunite with Sully, and even more shocked to learn that Sully is not behind the note or its threatening follow-ups --- from lipstick messages on mirrors to bloody glassware. Desperate to keep Adrian from finding out about the tragic night that changed her life, Amb is relieved that she and Sully are in it together. Or are they? Combining recollections from the past with tension-fueled encounters at the reunion, Amb starts to question that night and Sully’s role in it, all while a mysterious someone keeps threatening to reveal Amb’s secret not only to her husband, but to the entire Wesleyan Class of 2007.

I love a good dark academia thriller. Having read Flynn’s young adult novels, I expected to enjoy THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, but I could not have prepared myself for how downright chilling this book is. Flynn is an expert in adolescent psychology and female friendships, and her descriptions of mean girls doing bad things are nearly unparalleled. The thriller genre has exploded with villainous female protagonists over the last few years, and though I’ve read similar premises, Flynn makes the college setting feel fresh and original. By using one of these mean girls as her main character, she ups the ante in shocking ways.

What was so absolutely tantalizing about the book was how effectively it played upon the desires that every teen girl has: to be liked, to make friends, to matter. When we meet Ambrosia, she could be any teenage girl I have ever met --- or even the one I was --- yet her choices make her something terrifying: a cold, calculating girl who can have anything she wants. By alternating between her past and present, Flynn reminds us that we all have secrets we wish we could bury, and hints at the mean streak living in each of us, dormant until it is fueled by desire.

It’s no secret that women can be every bit as brutal as men, and teenage girls even more so. But in THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, Flynn forces readers to confront the mean girl in all of us and decide if we want to nurture or punch her. Full of razor-sharp writing and keen psychological insights, her adult debut hopefully is the first of many outstanding novels to come, a pitch-perfect thriller for fans of NECESSARY PEOPLE, THE HERD and THE DIVINES.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on April 2, 2021

The Girls Are All So Nice Here
by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn