A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Shock Point) is a murder mystery with a tough and determined teen heroine who's been forced to grow up too soon. After the body of Olivia Reinhart's mother was discovered and her father went missing, everyone assumed he was the killer. Then, 14 years later, evidence is uncovered proving her father died that same day. Now 17 and living on her own, Olivia returns to her hometown intent on solving the mystery of her parents' murders. It's a quick, fast-paced read, and Olivia's a character readers will root for. While violence is at the core of the story -- three characters are killed, one is shot, and Olivia has a flashback of her mother's murder -- nothing's described in graphic detail.
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What's the story?
Olivia Reinhart grew up believing her mother had been murdered by her father. After the death of the grandmother who became her guardian, Olivia found herself adrift in the foster care system and was briefly adopted. Now a 17-year-old emancipated minor living on her own in Portland, Oregon, she’s stunned to learn from local police that her father’s body has been discovered and that he was not her mother’s killer. Olivia decides to return to the hometown she barely remembers to search for the truth about what happened to her parents. THE GIRL I USED TO BE is an apt title, as Olivia tells no one in town that she's really Ariel Benson (her name had been changed when she was adopted), the daughter who witnessed her mother's murder but was left unharmed by the killer. Aided by Duncan, a childhood friend who recognizes her but agrees to keep her secret, Olivia begins putting together a list of suspects -- a list that includes some of the people closest to her parents.
Is it any good?
A tough yet vulnerable teen sleuth with a tragic past, a secret identity, two unsolved murders, and a killer on the loose make for an engaging and page-turning read. Olivia's determination to not only solve her parents' murders but also make a future for herself should be inspiring to readers. But parents may find the depiction of Olivia's life as an emancipated minor a bit too good to be true. Those with older readers might want to use her story as the starting point in a discussion about the realities of life for teens who have the "freedom" to make all their own choices.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about being on your own at 17. How difficult would it be for most teens that age to get a job, find a place to live, pay their own bills, and begin planning for college without an adult to help them?
Do you think murders featured on TV shows such as America's Most Wanted have a better chance of being solved?
Olivia trusted Duncan to keep her real identity secret. Are your friends good at keeping secrets? Are you?
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