Presumably, given the ongoing state of the world, many of us have not enjoyed a wild weekend in quite a long time. Fortunately, Amanda Jayatissa’s debut novel My Sweet Girl is here to take thrill-seeking readers on a drunken bender around the Bay Area.
My Sweet Girl is a classic who-done-it novel — only the ‘it’ is an ever-moving target lost in the smoke and mirrors of an intoxicated unreliable narrator. The result is a suspenseful psychological thriller so dizzying this book should come with a side effects warning: readers will arrive at the last page haunted and hungover.
My Sweet Girl starts like that John Mulaney joke where he recounts a time when he emailed his friend asking, “Hey do you want me to kill that guy for you? Because it sounds like he sucks, and I will totally kill that guy for you.” However, unlike beloved comedian John Mulaney, self-destructive protagonist Paloma Evans isn’t joking when she says she’ll kill her roommate Arun.
When Paloma goes home to find the very man she swore to kill face down in a pool of his own blood, Paloma is suddenly thrust into the middle of an investigation riddled with her own guilty fingerprints. The ensuing chapters are a paper trail any court of law could use to prove Paloma guilty.
The strength of this novel is that what a court of law could prove Paloma guilty of becomes more convoluted. The plot thickens as My Sweet Girl alternates between chapters set in present-day San Francisco and an orphanage in Sri Lanka in 2002. The side-by-side narratives of a 12-year-old Paloma hoping to be adopted by a white American family and a 30-year-old Paloma haunted by her past and present create a spinetingling tale the likes of which the psychological thriller genre has yet to see.
Despite the blood on her hands, you can’t help but root for Paloma. She may be brash, rude, and narcissistic, but in this day and age who isn’t? Ultimately, I came to respect Paloma’s candor. She doesn’t mince words as she paints an honest portrait of the complexities of racism, immigration, and intercountry adoption.
But that’s about all she’s honest about. Lies and deceit may color Paloma’s perception of her reality, but a little lie never hurt anybody, right? Well, readers are about to find out in My Sweet Girl, as Paloma’s struggle with her identity isn’t what it seems, laying the groundwork for a twist so sharp and sudden, yet cunningly foreshadowed.
My Sweet Girl is unputdownable. Jayatissa has penned a jaw-droppingly original novel that will burrow so far into readers’ psyches, it will be hard for any of us to pick up another psychological thriller again. Her work in My Sweet Girl combines airtight, intense, voice-forward writing with a juicy story, making for a page-turner that will leave readers no corners to hide in — whether it be from white saviorism, assimilation, and the Silicon Valley wealth gap, or from stalkers, murderers, and face-biting ghosts.
That’s right! In case the blood, gore, and horror of murder weren’t enough to lure readers into My Sweet Girl, Jayatissa threw in a ghost sub-plot for some extra zhuzh. When I say My Sweet Girl has everything to keep readers hooked, I do mean everything.
However, be warned that My Sweet Girl is the type of late summer read you’ll want to flip through in the bright light of day. My reasoning is that with the sun still chasing away shadows, it will be easier to see who is a friend and who is a foe.
Trust no one and nothing, not even the characters you think you know the most. These aren’t optimistic parting words, but with My Sweet Girl Amanda Jayatissa isn’t here to hold readers’ hands. In this novel, as with life, whatever will be, will be.
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