Wednesday, October 6, 2010

book review: The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

The Girl She Used to BeThe backstory: The Girl She Used to Be was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel by an American Author in 2010.

The basics: Melody Grace McCartney has been in the Federal Witness Protection Program for twenty years because she and her parents accidentally witnessed Mafia boss Tony Bovaro brutally murder a man.

My thoughts: While I wouldn't call this novel a mystery, I did enjoy the story and characters. Melody is an intriguing narrator. She is truly alone in the world. She's lived through numerous aliases and has never been able to share her life story with anyone. Despite her lonely life, both Melody and this novel have a sense of humor. As the book opens, Melody is working as a math teacher.
"Though I may be less effective than I hope; sadly, today is Tuesday and they are taking that pop quiz--the same day of the week, every week, that I give a pop quiz--and there are always a few who are surprised. Life will be cruel to them."
It was a fascinating suspenseful character study, and Cristofano's insight into the Witness Protection Program was fascinating. (He has worked for different branches of the federal government for over ten years.) There are times the pacing felt a bit off, which is a major quibble in a book with less than 250 pages. Still, Cristofano is a good writer with a strong, unique debut. As I finished the novel, I found myself remembering the quotation that precedes the novel: "All farewells should be sudden, when forever." - Lord Byron, from Sardanapalus. While at first this quotation seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the Witness Protection Program, but as the novel found a deeper footing, the Byron quotation added depth as well.

The verdict: Recommended for those who enjoy a character-driven book with action. At times it reminded me of a much milder Beat the Reaper, but ultimately The Girl She Used to Be is a novel that falls somewhere between fiction, suspense and mystery. At times it struggles to find its voice, but, ultimately, it's a satisfying, intriguing read. I'll certainly be on the look out for David Cristofano's next novel.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 242 pages
Publication date: It's out in paperback now
Source: my local public library

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. I really enjoyed the passage you selected -- what perfect insight into this character and the writing!

    I've not heard of this book so I might have to check it out! Many thanks!

  2. I really enjoyed the character study at the beginning, but I had trouble with Melody as the book progressed. I'm glad you enjoyed it though!

  3. I have been curious about this book and had wanted to give it a try. It's too bad that the pacing was not so tight, but I am thinking about giving it a try anyway! Thanks for the great review!

  4. As a former teacher, I love that quote!

  5. I really enjoyed this book. I know it was a little far fetched, but I still found it to be quite the page turner.

  6. This has been on my wish list. I am glad you read it and liked it.....someday soon for me I hope.

  7. @Coffee and a Book Chick - I hope you enjoy it!

    @S. Krishna - I started to have trouble with Melody too, but then I reminded myself of the loneliness of her life and found a way to understand her better.

    @Zibilee - It's a fun read, even if I didn't adore it.

    @softdrink - Isn't it hilarious?

    @Bermudaonion - Me too! It's nice to suspend reality and just enjoy a story!

    @Bibliophile by the Sea - I think you would enjoy this one too. I bet it would be good on audio!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!