The basics: "Emily, a [first-year student] at a Michigan university, has gone missing. She was last seen leaving a bar near Sigma Pi, the prestigious and secretive fraternity known on campus as “the rape factory.” The main suspect is Dylan Brooks, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. But so far the only clues are pieced-together surveillance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night…and Dylan running down the street after her."
My thoughts: Leotta jumps into the campus sexual assault crisis in a major way with The Last Good Girl. If you've read Missoula (my review) or seen the documentary The Hunting Ground, or read stories in the news, you'll recognize threads from highly-publicized cases and well-documented statistics infused into the story. Still, Leotta introduces some other fascinating fictional elements around the familiar ones: "She rolled out the notorious "one in five" statistic--but she added something I hadn't heard before. She said six percent of the boys commit ninety percent of the rapes on campus." Like many readers, Anna Curtis comes into this case with some knowledge of the current epidemic of rape on campus, but she, and thus the reader, learn a lot more about it over the course of this novel.
As someone who works in higher education, I'm fascinated (and horrified) by these events. Leotta does a fine job navigating and exploring the landscape of higher education. As the child of a former college president, I quibbled with a few minor details, but mostly I was impressed with how Leotta portrayed and explained higher education--in positive and negative ways.
As fascinated as I was with the setting and focus of this novel, I enjoyed the mystery the most. I'm fascinated by missing person stories, particularly ones like Emily's, when so much is in question. The evidence seems to point in one direction, but there are so many possibilities, even if there is one probability. As Anna explores them all, I found myself assuming the most likely solution wouldn't be the ultimate solution. In fact, I hoped it wouldn't be, as this novel wouldn't be much of a mystery. Knowing Leotta is responsible for one of my all-time favorite plot twists ever (in any medium), I couldn't help but wonder how she would end this novel. In short: I wasn't disappointed that I was surprised.
Favorite passage: ""You're hysterical" is what men say to women when they don't give a shit and think you shouldn't either."
The verdict: The Last Good Girl is both a page-turning mystery and a critical examination of how colleges handle rape cases. That Leotta can fuse these two disparate threads together so seamlessly is a testament to her writing and pacing skill. While Emily's case could be enjoyed as a stand-alone, the stories involving Anna's personal and professional lives include major spoilers from the previous four books, and I recommend you read this series in order, starting with Law of Attraction.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Last Good Girl from Amazon (Kindle edition.) Better yet: start with Law of Attraction. Buy it from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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