Girl A – Abigail Dean

There are things that your body doesn’t allow you to forget.

The seven Gracie children are known in the media as Boys A to D and Girls A to C. Lex, our main character, is Girl A.

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anybody was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

We join Lex’s story when she learns her mother, who recently died in prison, made Lex the executor of her will. It’s now up to Lex, in consultation with her siblings, to figure out what to do with the House of Horrors of their childhood.

I found it impossible to get the Turpin children out of my mind as I read this book. There are so many similarities, from the way they were treated to the photographs released in the media showing their matching clothes and distinctive hair, that I probably wouldn’t believe it if I was told the Turpin’s weren’t the inspiration for the Gracie’s in this story.

Number 11 was set back from the road. It had a grubby beige front and a garage, and a garden at the back. It was – as they would later say – a very ordinary house.

With the almost casual use of terms like “the Binding Days” and “the Chaining”, you know you’re not in for a light and fluffy read. It wasn’t as traumatic as I’d feared it would be, although it may be that I’m more accustomed to processing stories that feature child abuse.

I know enough information about each of the siblings to have an idea of how they’ve coped with the trauma they experienced as children but I would have loved to have delved deeper. Then again, the depth I was hoping for would probably transform this from a book of fiction to a psychology textbook. That’s just my long term fascination with nature vs. nurture talking.

I didn’t find the frequent timeline jumps disorienting, although some other reviewers clearly weren’t fans of it. Throughout the book we learn about Lex’s early childhood memories, the events that lead up to her escape and its immediate aftermath, and her life since. There’s not a lot of happy in this book, which makes the brief interactions with characters like Miss Glade, one of Lex’s teachers, shine that much brighter.

I figured out the twist quite early on. I don’t remember a specific sentence that pointed me in that direction, though. Instead, it felt more like an instinctual knowing. Even so, I didn’t find a lot to back up my theory before the reveal confirmed it. I’d like to be able to discuss the psychology surrounding it, particularly the impacts I suspect are related to it but aren’t explicitly mentioned, but I will instead ponder them quietly to myself because spoilers.

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and self harm.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared. 

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