Title: The It Girl
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.
Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the second, April was dead.
Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.
The It Girl takes the reader to the elite, competitive world of Oxford University – specifically a (fictional) college at the university, where Hannah Jones, an ordinary girl from a working-class background – finds herself studying ten years ago, amongst some of the wealthiest and most privileged people in the country. One of those is the enigmatic April, her roommate, who she strikes up an unlikely friendship with. Unfortunately, not everyone at the college is friendly, as Hannah soon finds out, and April is horrifically murdered one evening.
We also move forwards in time to the present day, when Hannah is trying to cope with the awful event that caused her to leave Oxford. She’s pregnant with her first child, and her husband Will – who also attended the same college – is trying to keep her life stress-free for the sake of their baby. They hear that John Neville, the man who was locked away for April’s murder, has died. Then a journalist gets in touch with some doubts he has as to whether April’s murderer was actually guilty…
I don’t want to give too much away but, through scenes back in the university days and the present-day uncovering of clues, we start to piece together what really happened all that time ago.
I liked the characters in this novel – they’re entertaining and, though many of them have their faults, they feel convincing. April is never painted to be this saint – all her friends acknowledge that she could be mean, spoilt, and demanding. Hannah really cares for her but can’t help being frustrated with her at various times. However, she desperately wants to know what really happened – the shock of what happened to April and the fact that Hannah’s eyewitness testimony helped convict John means she can’t just ignore the possibility that someone else could have killed April.
I also really enjoyed reading about the world of Oxford University – a setting very unknown to me and one that definitely felt atmospheric and steeped in tradition.
The plot is twisty and has plenty of surprises. I did see some bits coming from quite far off, and I felt like the story wasn’t as tightly plotted as other books by Ruth Ware that I’ve read in the past. The storyline didn’t feel very original but it was well written and I liked the slow build-up as we discover more and more about that night.
I still enjoyed this novel but I think I have a very high standard when I read a book by this author, so it didn’t really ‘wow’ me. I would still recommend it and it’s a gripping read, but I have to admit that I prefer other novels by this author.
My Rating: 3.75/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.