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Nice Girls

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A pulse-pounding and deviously dark debut, written with the psychological acuity and emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls, that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask what is most dangerous to a woman: showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Growing up in Liberty Lake, Minnesota, A pulse-pounding and deviously dark debut, written with the psychological acuity and emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls, that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask what is most dangerous to a woman: showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Growing up in Liberty Lake, Minnesota, Mary was chubby, awkward, and smart. Earning a scholarship to an Ivy League school was her ticket out; she was going to do great things and never look back. Three years later, “Ivy League Mary” is back—a thinner, cynical, and restless failure. Kicked out of Cornell at the beginning of senior year, she won’t tell anyone why. Working at the local grocery store, she sees familiar faces from high school and tries to make sense of the past and her life. When beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand, a rising social media star, goes missing, Mary—like the rest of Liberty Lake—becomes obsessed. Best friends in childhood, Mary and Olivia haven’t spoken in years. Everyone admired Olivia, but Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hid a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the world worries for perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary can’t help but hate her. She also believes that her disappearance is tied to another missing person—a nineteen-year-old girl named DeMaria Jackson whose disappearance has gone under the radar.   Who was the true Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary delves deeper into the lives of the two missing girls, old wounds bleed fresh and painful secrets threaten to destroy everything. Maybe no one is really a nice girl, after all.


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A pulse-pounding and deviously dark debut, written with the psychological acuity and emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls, that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask what is most dangerous to a woman: showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Growing up in Liberty Lake, Minnesota, A pulse-pounding and deviously dark debut, written with the psychological acuity and emotional punch of Luckiest Girl Alive and All the Missing Girls, that explores the hungry, angry, dark side of girlhood and dares to ask what is most dangerous to a woman: showing the world what it wants to see, or who she really is? What did you do? Growing up in Liberty Lake, Minnesota, Mary was chubby, awkward, and smart. Earning a scholarship to an Ivy League school was her ticket out; she was going to do great things and never look back. Three years later, “Ivy League Mary” is back—a thinner, cynical, and restless failure. Kicked out of Cornell at the beginning of senior year, she won’t tell anyone why. Working at the local grocery store, she sees familiar faces from high school and tries to make sense of the past and her life. When beautiful, magnetic Olivia Willand, a rising social media star, goes missing, Mary—like the rest of Liberty Lake—becomes obsessed. Best friends in childhood, Mary and Olivia haven’t spoken in years. Everyone admired Olivia, but Mary knows better than anyone that behind the Instagram persona hid a willful, manipulative girl with sharp edges. As the world worries for perfect, lovely Olivia, Mary can’t help but hate her. She also believes that her disappearance is tied to another missing person—a nineteen-year-old girl named DeMaria Jackson whose disappearance has gone under the radar.   Who was the true Olivia Willand, and where did she go? What happened to DeMaria? As Mary delves deeper into the lives of the two missing girls, old wounds bleed fresh and painful secrets threaten to destroy everything. Maybe no one is really a nice girl, after all.

30 review for Nice Girls

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael David

    “Didn’t we almost have it all?” Just like Whitney Houston belted in the 80’s, Mary also almost had it all. Growing up and sprouting from a lonely girl with one friend to a budding Ivy League University student with a scholarship, Mary’s promising future dissipates in the blink of an eye after an unfortunate incident with her and a Freshman student. Now, “Ivy League Mary” has been expelled from Cornell and is back home living with her dad, and working in the local grocery store. Dejected and depress “Didn’t we almost have it all?” Just like Whitney Houston belted in the 80’s, Mary also almost had it all. Growing up and sprouting from a lonely girl with one friend to a budding Ivy League University student with a scholarship, Mary’s promising future dissipates in the blink of an eye after an unfortunate incident with her and a Freshman student. Now, “Ivy League Mary” has been expelled from Cornell and is back home living with her dad, and working in the local grocery store. Dejected and depressed, she is ashamed of what she’s done and can’t stand the thought of others knowing why she returned to Liberty Lake, Minnesota. Mary and her dad barely talk, but he actually speaks to her one day to let her know that her former childhood friend, Olivia, has disappeared. Olivia is a social media starling, rapidly gaining followers, and has an affluent family. Of course, it’s all over the news. Mary can’t help but be intrigued with what could’ve happened to Olivia, a friend she used to love and ended up hating. Then, Mary discovers there was a previous missing person in town only a few months prior...19-year old DeMaria Jackson. The disappearance was under-reported and mainly swept under the rug. Could the two situations be connected? Mary is determined to find out. Nice Girls is an intriguing and engrossing mystery. It slowly builds suspense and introduces us to characters who may or not be malicious, made me question the reliability of the narrator, and generally held my interest. It delves into themes of anxiety, depression, mental health, and racial inequality. Also, this is not a standard “mean girls” type of story. I really enjoyed this, but do have to say the last third seems a bit implausible as Mary gets herself deeper into the weeds while digging for information. The denouement, albeit entertaining, might take some suspension of disbelief, but it is overall satisfying. This is the debut novel of Catherine Dang (a former legal assistant), and I predict great things to come if this book is any indication. 3.5 stars rounded up. Sincere thank you to William Morrow for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: 9/7/21. Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Allison (on vacation until Sunday) Faught

    3.5 ⭐️ So I started reading this book and about 65% of the way through I thought ‘why did my GR friends not like this book that much?’ Then I got to about 75% and said ‘ohhhh! I get it now….’ 😂 I loved most of it so it was disappointing that the ending was a bit OTT. Mary couldn’t make up her mind who she thought the killer was and it changed so frequently and randomly that I could only take anything she said at any time with a grain of salt because it was going to change again in the next chapter 3.5 ⭐️ So I started reading this book and about 65% of the way through I thought ‘why did my GR friends not like this book that much?’ Then I got to about 75% and said ‘ohhhh! I get it now….’ 😂 I loved most of it so it was disappointing that the ending was a bit OTT. Mary couldn’t make up her mind who she thought the killer was and it changed so frequently and randomly that I could only take anything she said at any time with a grain of salt because it was going to change again in the next chapter. It was exhausting to keep up with all the changes. I left with more questions than answers. I can’t name these because it will spoil the ending. The killer was not only predictable (given hints in earlier chapters), but was the type of character that I couldn’t have cared less that it was that person and the motive was so ridiculous and out of this world that it left me scratching my head. I didn’t mind the first 65% of the story. In fact, I really liked it! But you have to be okay with OTT endings and a few unanswered questions by the end.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Catherine Dang managed to sink her teeth into me with the start of Nice Girls. I was hooked from the first page. Until I wasn't any longer. Mary was the chubby awkward girl in school. The girl no one ever wanted to be friends with. She vowed to leave Liberty Lake and to become the success she knew she could be. She had the grades after all. Then she was accepted to Cornell and became "Ivy League Mary". That all came to an abrupt halt when she is expelled in her senior year. Now living back at ho Catherine Dang managed to sink her teeth into me with the start of Nice Girls. I was hooked from the first page. Until I wasn't any longer. Mary was the chubby awkward girl in school. The girl no one ever wanted to be friends with. She vowed to leave Liberty Lake and to become the success she knew she could be. She had the grades after all. Then she was accepted to Cornell and became "Ivy League Mary". That all came to an abrupt halt when she is expelled in her senior year. Now living back at home with her Dad and once again in Liberty Lake she is ashamed and embarrassed and would rather hole up in her bedroom then face the people of her past. Dad isn't having it though and demands she gets a job. She starts working at the local grocery store which is hardly a place to remain invisible. Suddenly Liberty Lake is in an uproar. Olivia Willand, rising Instagram star and Liberty Lake local has gone missing. She was Mary's elementary school best friend until she wasn't anymore. Police, FBI, and all the media outlets converge together. Search parties organized in an effort to find Olivia. Meanwhile, Mary becomes aware of another missing girl. DeMaria Jackson was a 19 year old black woman and single mother with one DUI under her belt. The police brush her off as a runaway though her mother Leticia disagrees. No further investigation is done. Mary is convinced the two crimes are connected and becomes hell bent on solving the mystery. Is there a serial killer hiding amongst them in Liberty Lake? I did enjoy this for the most part but other parts really bothered me. Mary was not likeable or reliable. Her hatred toward everyone got a little annoying. You know what? Kids are cruel. Navigating through adolescence and the teen years is akin to navigating a minefield. Most of us move on as healthy, stable adults but Mary seems to really be hung up on her youth. Through flashbacks we see a bit of their friendship and honestly I didn't think Olivia was all that awful. Heck, I have seen worse in my own life. Mary's reason for being expelled? Not quite as dark as I was hoping for and a bit overblown if you ask me. For someone that didn't want any attention she insinuated herself into the investigation making herself very known to not only the police but possibly to the culprit as well. The ending? I was shaking my head. I did enjoy how Dang brought light to a matter we have all seen and witnessed on the news before. Missing white girl from a nice neighborhood goes missing and everyone loses their minds while a missing black girl from the wrong side of the tracks gets no coverage at all and that's a crying shame. As if one life is more valuable than the other is sickening. Overall this is a decent book with one eye catching cover. I'll be keeping my eye on this author. 3.5 stars! Thank you to William Morrow for kindly sending me a physical arc.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kim ~ It’s time to get spooky

    Did I love this book? You bet I did! All the stars for this fantastic debut! This was one of my most anticipated reads. I expected a great "mean girls" book. However, this was much darker than expected and I loved that! Mary was harassed during high school about her appearance and her nerdy behavior. Yet she got the last laugh when she got accepted to Cornell. She was nicknamed Ivy League Mary by her small town...trust me..she was determined not to go back....until she gets expelled..and not for Did I love this book? You bet I did! All the stars for this fantastic debut! This was one of my most anticipated reads. I expected a great "mean girls" book. However, this was much darker than expected and I loved that! Mary was harassed during high school about her appearance and her nerdy behavior. Yet she got the last laugh when she got accepted to Cornell. She was nicknamed Ivy League Mary by her small town...trust me..she was determined not to go back....until she gets expelled..and not for her grades... Now working hard for her money at the local grocery store..Mary becomes obsessed with two local missing girls...This starts out as a slow burn delving into Mary's personality...then it takes a very, very dark turn... The ending was dark, terrifying and fantastic! I never dreamed this story would take that kind of turn. The ending was so gory and shocking that it made me think of a book from last year that was very popular and I loved. If you love a good debut...pub date is right around the corner- Sept 14th. Thank you so much Partner- bibliolifestyle and William Morrow for my gorgeous gifted copy!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    2.5 stars, rounded down. Unpopular opinion alert! This is the story of "Ivy League Mary," an overweight semi-outcast in high school who reinvented herself after being admitted to and attending Cornell University. That is, until she is involved in an incident that leads to her expulsion from college at the beginning of her senior year and returning home to Minnesota with her father to shamefully work at a grocery store until she figures out what to do with her life. One of her friends from element 2.5 stars, rounded down. Unpopular opinion alert! This is the story of "Ivy League Mary," an overweight semi-outcast in high school who reinvented herself after being admitted to and attending Cornell University. That is, until she is involved in an incident that leads to her expulsion from college at the beginning of her senior year and returning home to Minnesota with her father to shamefully work at a grocery store until she figures out what to do with her life. One of her friends from elementary school turns up missing, the popular and beautiful social media star Olivia, and Mary also discovers another missing girl, this one is poor and Black and no one seems to give her disappearance a second thought. Mary believes they are connected and sets off to find out who has taken the girls and why. Just did not connect with this one and hated the main character. Mary is self-absorbed and looks down on others while at the same time is filled with self-loathing. There are so many parts of this book that did not make sense to me and so many incidents that were just not believable. I kept thinking--your life isn't over, just transfer to a state school and finish your degree! And when she is fired from her job due to her "criminal record" she just goes berserk rather than dealing with the situation calmly and maturely explaining what happened and that the boss was mistaken. The potential was here for a really deep look into policing disparities between race, class, and social status. And the author does make an attempt to connect those dots, but then it just goes off the rails in a bizarre way and she lost me. The actual criminal's motivations and actions made no sense to me. Overall, I found this book to not live up to my expectations and although my opinion is in the minority, I'd recommend passing on this one. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    For a debut, this one packed a punch in the tired "girl gone missing" genre! It is addictingly dark and I was sucked in from page one. Once quiet, overweight, and poor, Mary seemed to have only one thing going for her - her brains. She was dubbed "Ivy League Mary" in high school because she had something no one else did - a scholarship to an Ivy League school. She is now on the brink of having everything - she is skinny and attractive and about to graduate with a degree from Cornell. Until her lu For a debut, this one packed a punch in the tired "girl gone missing" genre! It is addictingly dark and I was sucked in from page one. Once quiet, overweight, and poor, Mary seemed to have only one thing going for her - her brains. She was dubbed "Ivy League Mary" in high school because she had something no one else did - a scholarship to an Ivy League school. She is now on the brink of having everything - she is skinny and attractive and about to graduate with a degree from Cornell. Until her luck runs out and she is expelled from Cornell. Now she’s back in her small hometown, working a dead-end job at a grocery store, and avoiding questions about what happened - even from those closest to her. Then beautiful, popular Olivia Willand goes missing. Olivia is admired by nearly everyone in town and in the social media world - except Mary. Once Olivia’s childhood friend, Mary knows that behind Olivia's online persona hides a cold, manipulator who would do anything for attention. The town quickly obsesses over Olivia's disappearance, but Mary wonders if her disappearance is tied to another missing teenage girl - DeMaria Jackson, whose case has been widely dismissed as a runaway. As Mary pries at the cracks in the careful facades surrounding the two missing girls, old wounds re-open and force her to confront a horrible truth. I really liked how the plot unfolded and the directions Dang took it in. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the connection between DeMaria and Olivia, and in the end I thought it was well-done and believable. I also like how Dang takes a hard but subtle look at how looks, class, and race affect the treatment of cases by the media, the police, etc. The town turns out in droves to search for Olivia, but when DeMaria disappeared, she was just treated as a runaway. The only negatives - I didn't really like Mary or any of the other characters. She was a bit too edgy and aloof for me to really empathize with her - although I will say, once the reason for her expulsion was fully revealed, I did start to like her a bit more; however, I think it just came too late in the book, as by then, my feelings for Mary were just "meh". I also had an issue with the ending. There was a moment well before the conclusion that was such a dead giveaway to the "whodunnit" that blinking lights all around it couldn't have made it any more obvious. It took a bit away from the element of surprise I feel Dang was going for. Overall though, a fantastic debut thriller that also provides an insightful social commentary. I'm already looking forward to Dang's next book! 4 stars. Thank you so much to my awesome friend, Michael, for passing this ARC on to me, as it one I might not have otherwise read, and I definitely would have been missing out! 🤗

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    This new release has a fairly pitiful Goodreads rating, but I thought the page turnability was right up there. Please note “Ivy League Mary” was pretty much a Grade-A Butthole, but since I’m not particularly fond of the “Average Joe becomes supersleuth murder solver” trope I was kind of alright with not liking her as well. An explanation regarding Mary’s buttholery was also provided at some point, so again I’m going to give it a pass. Just make a notation in your own brain that you might want to This new release has a fairly pitiful Goodreads rating, but I thought the page turnability was right up there. Please note “Ivy League Mary” was pretty much a Grade-A Butthole, but since I’m not particularly fond of the “Average Joe becomes supersleuth murder solver” trope I was kind of alright with not liking her as well. An explanation regarding Mary’s buttholery was also provided at some point, so again I’m going to give it a pass. Just make a notation in your own brain that you might want to punch her in the throat. Also note that I request anything with a house on the cover without ever reading the blurb or looking at a rating so you might already be doing yourself a disservice by even reading this attempt at a review because this cover???? Well apparently cabin covers might even be better than house covers. The story here is that Ivy League Mary has been booted out of Cornell her Senior year and forced to return home again. While living with her dad and working at the local Whole Foods knockoff one of Mary’s former classmates goes missing. And because she’s a pretty little white girl from a well established family errrrrrybody is looking for her. But no one bothered looking for DeMaria when she didn’t come home from work. She was simply labeled a runaway. Are the two girls connected? And if so, how? As I said above, this debut kept me turning pages. I loved the acknowledgment of certain types of missing women getting the police/media/general population spotlight while others who aren’t from the perfect upper-middle-class upbringing simply go ignored for the most part. I also thought the ending was absolutely satisfactory. Aside from the moment where something like this happened . . . . But again, as soon as I see some random person with zero qualifications being the one getting their nose all up in the missing persons cases I kind of expect a little Lifetime Stabby Stabs decision making to occur as well. 3.5 Stars for me. I would absolutely read this author again.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Do you ever almost NOT read a book, and then you are glad that you decided to pick it up? That was me with Catherine Dang's finely crafted debut, Nice Girls. Having read plenty of "girl-gone-missing" thrillers, I feel like I have explored the scope of what this genre has to offer. Fortunately, Dang gave me a little something more to enjoy with her novel about "Ivy League Mary," a girl who made it to Cornell and was subsequently kicked out during her senior year for one moment of seriously bad ju Do you ever almost NOT read a book, and then you are glad that you decided to pick it up? That was me with Catherine Dang's finely crafted debut, Nice Girls. Having read plenty of "girl-gone-missing" thrillers, I feel like I have explored the scope of what this genre has to offer. Fortunately, Dang gave me a little something more to enjoy with her novel about "Ivy League Mary," a girl who made it to Cornell and was subsequently kicked out during her senior year for one moment of seriously bad judgment. Back home and living with her father who is not happy about her mistakes, Mary tries to keep what happened at Cornell a secret while working at the local grocery store. But when she becomes involved in not one, but two missing girl mysteries from her hometown, she learns that she is not the only one with something to hide. Catherine Dang is a voice that needs to be heard, and she is a welcome addition to the women's suspense genre. What I loved so much about her debut is that she takes time to really build her story, investing readers in the plot and characters before pulling out the twists and turns. This strategy is so effective because it allows readers to form their own opinions about the characters and their motives, and hence, when the rug is pulled out from underneath them, the pay-off is gratifying. Dang does a lot of showing, as opposed to telling, which is a characteristic I really appreciate in a writer - one who lets me come to my own conclusions instead of telling me what to think. I was "all in" during my entire reading of Nice Girls, which I devoured in practically one sitting. Dang effectively layers a story about a girl moving back in with her parents after a failed attempt at college and the adjustments she has to make to go from being somebody back to nobody, with a small-town missing girls mystery. While the missing girls are always in the background, they aren't the constant focus of this multi-layered novel, and readers will find that Mary has secrets and intrigue all of her own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea | thrillerbookbabe

    First of all, thank you to William Morrow and Catherine Dang for my ARC of this book that comes out on September 7, 2021. Is anyone really a nice girl? Mary doesn’t think so. After years of being the fat, awkward, forgettable girl from Liberty Lake Minnesota, she wants to change her town’s perspective of her. She works hard and now she’s known as “Ivy League Mary”- the girl who got out and attended the prestigious Cornell University. Now she’s back in Liberty Lake after being kicked out her seni First of all, thank you to William Morrow and Catherine Dang for my ARC of this book that comes out on September 7, 2021. Is anyone really a nice girl? Mary doesn’t think so. After years of being the fat, awkward, forgettable girl from Liberty Lake Minnesota, she wants to change her town’s perspective of her. She works hard and now she’s known as “Ivy League Mary”- the girl who got out and attended the prestigious Cornell University. Now she’s back in Liberty Lake after being kicked out her senior year. No one knows why she’s back, but she is almost unrecognizable. Soon after Mary’s return, the beautiful and popular Olivia Willand goes missing from Liberty Lake. Mary was childhood friends with Olivia, but after a falling out Mary knows Olivia’s dark side. She can’t help but obsess about the case, and starts looking into her disappearance along with another girl who also went missing from Liberty Lake. As she starts to dig in to Olivia’s life, Mary begins to bring up the past and everything that comes with it. Nice Girls talks about the pressure girls have to be the best version of themselves. High school can be a hard time for girls specifically, and this book showed how that pressure is not always a good thing. The book also pointed out how friendships are not always born of connection, but sometimes of convenience. The story slowly builds tension and I think Catherine Dang is an asset to the woman’s suspense genre. She layers the story so it builds and slowly lets the reader in. I felt for Mary without completely trusting her, always wondering if there was something going on beneath the surface. It was hard to put down and easy to imagine myself in the dark and gritty setting, with two specific parts of town. Nice Girls talks about anxiety, depression, and the importance of mental health. It points out racism in the police force and the media, and inequality in the way crimes are investigated. It brought up many important points while also being an exciting and mysterious read. I recommend this debut to lovers of All The Missing Girls and Luckiest Girl Alive. 4-stars!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Finally my copy has been delivered! Before I start, I quickly looked at the goodreads page: as a ritual I checked the star status of the book without reading reviews. ( I don't read any of my friends' reviews before I finish a book) I'm flabbergasted after seeing those mixed reviews: I always trust judgements and tastes of Michelle and Melissa but I also trust Kim and Denise's reviews. Overall: there are highly praised and not so fan of this book reviews posted at the same time which make me won Finally my copy has been delivered! Before I start, I quickly looked at the goodreads page: as a ritual I checked the star status of the book without reading reviews. ( I don't read any of my friends' reviews before I finish a book) I'm flabbergasted after seeing those mixed reviews: I always trust judgements and tastes of Michelle and Melissa but I also trust Kim and Denise's reviews. Overall: there are highly praised and not so fan of this book reviews posted at the same time which make me wonder what side I will choose after finishing this one. Challenge accepted! I'm in!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm Myrtle Beach

    3.5 stars Decent and quick read. I feel like every part of the story needed go deeper to really build that suspenseful "I can't wait to see what happens" feeling. 3.5 stars. It probably deserves more to be rounded down to a 3, but I'm going up to 4 because I enjoyed it. I think this author will definitely grow with her writing in the books to come. 3.5 stars Decent and quick read. I feel like every part of the story needed go deeper to really build that suspenseful "I can't wait to see what happens" feeling. 3.5 stars. It probably deserves more to be rounded down to a 3, but I'm going up to 4 because I enjoyed it. I think this author will definitely grow with her writing in the books to come.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leighton

    Thank you to William Morrow for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Nice Girls by Catherine Dang is a heart-pounding small-town thriller full of twists and turns. First off, as a reader of Asian descent, I am so happy to support this author! Even though this is not an #ownvoices novel (as far as I can tell, the protagonist is white), there are multiple Vietnamese-American side characters who add a lot to the story. The story revolves around Mary, nicknamed "Ivy League Mary," who left a sma Thank you to William Morrow for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Nice Girls by Catherine Dang is a heart-pounding small-town thriller full of twists and turns. First off, as a reader of Asian descent, I am so happy to support this author! Even though this is not an #ownvoices novel (as far as I can tell, the protagonist is white), there are multiple Vietnamese-American side characters who add a lot to the story. The story revolves around Mary, nicknamed "Ivy League Mary," who left a small, podunk town for Cornell a few years ago. Now, she's back, but she didn't graduate yet. What secrets haunt Mary amid her surprise return to her hometown? Meanwhile, the news buzzing around town is that a young woman named Olivia has been kidnapped and possibly murdered. Once, she was Mary's friend; then, she became an Instagram influencer; now, she's gone. As Mary starts investigating Olivia's disappearance, everyone in her life becomes a suspect. She starts to wonder if there is a serial killer hiding among the people she grew up with. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1, when Mary about to leave Cornell and head home: "I kept hearing my name in every loud conversation or hushed tone, in the laughter as a pair of girls walked by. I didn't know if that was better or worse than the text messages. I currently had forty-three of them, unopened, burning on my phone. They came from friends, acquaintances, coworkers, but nearly half of them had come from numbers that I didn't recognize. It was as if they all smelled blood and came for the carnage. The texts were straightforward: You're a f*cking b*tch, Mary. You deserve worse." After I read that excerpt, I had to keep reading and find out what happened to Mary at Cornell. The central mystery regarding the disappearance of Mary's old friend Olivia was also intriguing. Nice Girls is unputdownable. I flew through it within a few hours. If you're a fan of strong female protagonists, pick up this book! It reminded me of another upcoming thriller that I enjoyed, The Lost Girls by Jessica Chiarella, in that the protagonists aren't afraid to do the investigating themselves when the police can't find anything. Overall, if you enjoy reading post-college thrillers like The Girls Are So Nice Here, or if you're a fan of authors like Megan Miranda or Chevy Stevens, then you won't regret checking out this book when it comes out in September!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    There are many positive reviews for this title; but not from me. Because this was an advance copy I felt that I needed to plug through and provide an honest review. Back in high school our protagonist, Mary, was overweight and unpopular. She hoped her life would change for the better after she was accepted into an Ivy League college. She lost weight and although we don't get many details, she seemingly spent her first several years in college remaking her life, fitting in, living a normal college There are many positive reviews for this title; but not from me. Because this was an advance copy I felt that I needed to plug through and provide an honest review. Back in high school our protagonist, Mary, was overweight and unpopular. She hoped her life would change for the better after she was accepted into an Ivy League college. She lost weight and although we don't get many details, she seemingly spent her first several years in college remaking her life, fitting in, living a normal college life, partying, boyfriends, etc. even becoming a resident advisor in a freshman dorm during her final year. But then she gets in a violent altercation with a freshman student whom she thought was her friend and is expelled. She returns home to try to pick up the pieces. She's home a few days when two women in town disappear around the same time, one of whom was a childhood friend, and she decides that only she can make the connection between the two of them and solve the crime. Mary is not a likable character and I didn't get invested in her at all. It wasn't at all realistic that she would suddenly care so much about the two missing women. Her childhood friend dropped her when they entered junior high and went on to be a popular girl with a large Instagram following. She didn't know the other one at all - a black woman from the other side of town. She runs around suspecting literally everyone, jumping to ridiculous conclusions and pursuing crazy and reckless theories at the drop of a hat. For awhile I could only wrongly assume that it would end up all being in her imagination, which wouldn't have been satisfying, but might have made some kind of sense. The writing style is brisk and oftentimes breathless - short sentences, many one sentence paragraphs, 52 chapters in 320 pages. One element of the author's prose particularly grated on me - her overuse of a name in a chapter with only two people in the scene - she constantly used the character's name, or in many cases, Dad, in almost every sentence when just "he" or "she" would do. Sorry, this just didn't work for me. #NiceGirls #NetGalley

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

    **received an ARC with thanks from Goodreads and the publisher** I know I'm the minority on this one, but Nice Girls was a miss for me. I didn't find the characters particularly likable and my mind kept wandering. **received an ARC with thanks from Goodreads and the publisher** I know I'm the minority on this one, but Nice Girls was a miss for me. I didn't find the characters particularly likable and my mind kept wandering.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    After being expelled from Cornell University, Mary returns to her hometown only to discover that her childhood friend, Olivia, is missing. Why was Mary kicked out of the Ivy League university? Will her friend be found dead or alive? And, just how many "sad, angry girl[s are] trapped in Liberty Lake?" Even though I'm not typically a murder mystery fan, the extenuating circumstances of this suspenseful storyline pulled me in from the very first pages. I very much enjoyed this debut author's writing After being expelled from Cornell University, Mary returns to her hometown only to discover that her childhood friend, Olivia, is missing. Why was Mary kicked out of the Ivy League university? Will her friend be found dead or alive? And, just how many "sad, angry girl[s are] trapped in Liberty Lake?" Even though I'm not typically a murder mystery fan, the extenuating circumstances of this suspenseful storyline pulled me in from the very first pages. I very much enjoyed this debut author's writing style and look forward to more. Beware that the ending especially is a bit dark and not for the faint of heart. "Maybe no one is really a nice girl, after all." Location: Liberty Lake, Minnesota and Cornell University I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leisa

    Let me begin by saying that I do not enjoy giving negative reviews, but I did promise to always be honest with my feedback. So here we are. I did enjoy the beginning of Nice Girls. I loved the spooky Halloween vibe – complete with a missing person’s search in the woods on Halloween itself. I did really struggle, however, with the multitude of unlikeable characters who really had very little redeeming qualities to speak of. The actions and motivations of the protagonist were so outlandish and imm Let me begin by saying that I do not enjoy giving negative reviews, but I did promise to always be honest with my feedback. So here we are. I did enjoy the beginning of Nice Girls. I loved the spooky Halloween vibe – complete with a missing person’s search in the woods on Halloween itself. I did really struggle, however, with the multitude of unlikeable characters who really had very little redeeming qualities to speak of. The actions and motivations of the protagonist were so outlandish and immature that I just could not suspend belief any further. That said, I would definitely read another book by this author and give her another try. My thanks to William Morrow Books for the opportunity to read this book before its September 7 publication date.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Thank you to Goodreads for this ARC. This story kept me entertained. The author’s writing is very descriptive and I felt so immersed in the story. I did not like Mary, the main character. She had a lot of anger issues. The ending surprised me. A good story!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    1.5 Initially I was intrigued.... the premise was great up until the last 1/3 ,then it just became a ridiculous D grade plot that resembled a bad midday movie !

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    Mary spent most of her adolescence as a chunky awkward girl that never fit in with her peers. Going away to college helped her shed that old persona but when she gets kicked out of college she returns to her hometown with a sense of shame and embarrassment. Not long after Mary returns home, a girl, Olivia, goes missing, and it is a girl that Mary had a close connection with; they were once best friends until Olivia ditched Mary for the prettier more popular girls. As Mary begins to settle in wit Mary spent most of her adolescence as a chunky awkward girl that never fit in with her peers. Going away to college helped her shed that old persona but when she gets kicked out of college she returns to her hometown with a sense of shame and embarrassment. Not long after Mary returns home, a girl, Olivia, goes missing, and it is a girl that Mary had a close connection with; they were once best friends until Olivia ditched Mary for the prettier more popular girls. As Mary begins to settle in with familiar friends and acquaintances, she draws a parallel between Olivia and another missing girl. Could the two be connected? Mary is a fairly unlikeable character; she is thorny and blunt – to the point of rudeness but it works for the story – she’s like a toasted marshmallow, a little soft on the inside if you don’t hold it over the fire too long. The mystery and the twists are there, definitely, but the big takeaway for me is the inequality between race and class when it came to investigating two young women’s murders. Ms. Dang really shines a light on the dissimilarity in both media coverage and interest between the two missing girls, one white and wealthy and the other working class and black. Definitely give 𝘕𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭𝘴 a read if you like a dark twisty thriller with a side of malicious! My thanks to @WilliamMorrowBooks for this #Gifted copy of 𝘕𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭𝘴!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Really a 2.5... This book was just a little off. It had a lot of really, REALLY heavy handed political commentary in it that didn't seem to go anywhere. It'd feel like the author was setting these things up to be a major focus of the book, highly relevant to the plot, and then... none of it actually was. I thought some of the characters and depictions were... not well done. Things that I thought were set up to be torn down later in the book were left untouched. I figure I probably agree with the Really a 2.5... This book was just a little off. It had a lot of really, REALLY heavy handed political commentary in it that didn't seem to go anywhere. It'd feel like the author was setting these things up to be a major focus of the book, highly relevant to the plot, and then... none of it actually was. I thought some of the characters and depictions were... not well done. Things that I thought were set up to be torn down later in the book were left untouched. I figure I probably agree with the author on these subjects but I don't think this attempt served her message very well at all. A lot of the protagonist's motivations never seemed to really ring true. Reactions to her from other characters often don't make sense to me. Loose ends of all kinds are left untied throughout the book and the ending is pretty abysmal. It almost has the structure of a cozy mystery but it isn't remotely cozy. All that said, it was a page turner. I just think it has some serious issues in how the political commentary was executed as well as with how all over the place it was. I think the author has potential and could write a really great thriller if she figures out how to more tighly weave together all she wants to write about while still publishing a murder mystery thriller over the span of 320ish pages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    3.5 stars. Mary's father moves her back home after she was expelled from college in her senior year for attacking a freshman. As background on Mary, she was a chubby girl in high school but exceptionally smart and many girls picked on her. She can't find any job now except as a grocery clerk. She feels as worthless as she did in high school. One of the girls who was mean to her back then goes missing. A mutilated body of another girl is found. Could this be the work of a serial killer? There's not 3.5 stars. Mary's father moves her back home after she was expelled from college in her senior year for attacking a freshman. As background on Mary, she was a chubby girl in high school but exceptionally smart and many girls picked on her. She can't find any job now except as a grocery clerk. She feels as worthless as she did in high school. One of the girls who was mean to her back then goes missing. A mutilated body of another girl is found. Could this be the work of a serial killer? There's not a lot of action at first and the middle is slow but the story picked up in the last quarter. I always try to compile a list of potential killers but this one turned out to be lower on my list of suspicions. I personally didn't like the end of the book. However, it was a solid debut.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Clark

    Wow. Formulaic at best, but the plot makes no sense. Why would a girl kicked out of college want (or be able) to insert herself into a criminal investigation? The narrator is a horrible person who only gets more awful and ridiculous as the story goes on. So many of the plot points don’t make logical sense, and the narrator is never held accountable or deals with the problems she creates. The ending is truly bizarre - her father somehow intuits what has happened without either of them saying anyt Wow. Formulaic at best, but the plot makes no sense. Why would a girl kicked out of college want (or be able) to insert herself into a criminal investigation? The narrator is a horrible person who only gets more awful and ridiculous as the story goes on. So many of the plot points don’t make logical sense, and the narrator is never held accountable or deals with the problems she creates. The ending is truly bizarre - her father somehow intuits what has happened without either of them saying anything, and decides to protect her? Even the reason she was kicked out of school is thin, when it’s finally revealed after way too much buildup. The depiction of some of the characters feels rather racist, as well. This book was a hot mess and I can’t believe I bothered to finish it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This one was just ok for me. It centers on Mary, who escaped her tiny hometown to go to an Ivy League school, then subsequently gets kicked out and has to return with a sense of shame. Meanwhile, a pretty and popular girl who used to be Mary’s friend disappears, and Mary makes a connection between her disappearance and that of another girl and does a little sleuthing on her own. The main reason I didn’t love the book was because I didn’t love Mary. I found her to be kind of a horrible person, to This one was just ok for me. It centers on Mary, who escaped her tiny hometown to go to an Ivy League school, then subsequently gets kicked out and has to return with a sense of shame. Meanwhile, a pretty and popular girl who used to be Mary’s friend disappears, and Mary makes a connection between her disappearance and that of another girl and does a little sleuthing on her own. The main reason I didn’t love the book was because I didn’t love Mary. I found her to be kind of a horrible person, to be honest, though I kept telling myself that perhaps she was just young and insecure. She is somewhat of an unreliable narrator, which I did appreciate, as it kept me guessing throughout. The message around how different victims are treated differently due to race and privilege resonated with me, and I thought the author handled it well. I also liked the ending of the story when all was revealed; I had an idea of who the villain was but the author didn’t leave many clues for me to feel sure about it, and the motive caught me completely off guard. So all in all, decent book- I would’ve liked it a lot better if I had felt some kind of connection to Mary but it was still a good story. Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    Ehh. 2.5-2.75 stars… If you enjoy true crime podcasts (or books written like one) you might like this, if troupes, ridiculous unbelievable plot points, an overdone bad guy stereotype, an unlikeable/annoying/prissy narrator and some truly annoying writing styles don’t bother you… For example (re writing style), the narrator said one guys full name (let’s say it’s John Smith) over 30 times in a single chapter. Everyone also referred to her as “ivy league Mary” (I think I counted over 9 references i Ehh. 2.5-2.75 stars… If you enjoy true crime podcasts (or books written like one) you might like this, if troupes, ridiculous unbelievable plot points, an overdone bad guy stereotype, an unlikeable/annoying/prissy narrator and some truly annoying writing styles don’t bother you… For example (re writing style), the narrator said one guys full name (let’s say it’s John Smith) over 30 times in a single chapter. Everyone also referred to her as “ivy league Mary” (I think I counted over 9 references in one chapter) constantly to the point where it made everything unbelievable bc do people in towns actually talk this way? Of course they don’t. SUMMARY: 21 yo Mary is kicked out of school senior year after getting into an altercation with another student (more details are revealed later). Mary moves home to small Midwestern town USA (lives with her dad) and starts working at the grocery store. Back in HS, Mary was a social outcast (geeky, overweight troupe) so getting into an Ivy League school (and losing weight) was her “revenge”. Now, though, she’s ashamed… so much for that chip on her shoulder… Upon her arrival, her former classmate Olivia goes missing. Olivia was also a childhood friend but they separated in middle school with Olivia becoming popular and now, an Instagram darling. A few days later, Mary (and her love interest) find an arm by the lame, that she assumes belongs to Olivia. When it turns out to be the arm of another young woman who had gone missing weeks before Olivia, Ivy League Mary 🙄 suspects a serial killer. soon Mary starts investigating the disappearance of both women. (Since the other young woman was black/single teen mom, she didn’t get proper police attention). Eventually, and not without shitting on every new relationship she’s forged or ever had (including her relationship with her high best friend and her dad), Ivy League mary figures out who the murderer is and how the dead women are connected, but (!!) not without doing dumb things that gets her in harms way with guy with two names. They fight to the death. The end.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kori Potenzone

    I am pretty much left speechless after concluding Nice Girls. This may be Catherine Dang's debut novel but she is sure to break the internet with this one. This book is DARK. How many of us women felt judged as a child? Trying to fit in with what we thought were the cool girls? This book is just so much more than just another great read. It hits on topics like segregation, race, and social class. Everything you say, everything you wear, every reaction you make, you are being judged by those arou I am pretty much left speechless after concluding Nice Girls. This may be Catherine Dang's debut novel but she is sure to break the internet with this one. This book is DARK. How many of us women felt judged as a child? Trying to fit in with what we thought were the cool girls? This book is just so much more than just another great read. It hits on topics like segregation, race, and social class. Everything you say, everything you wear, every reaction you make, you are being judged by those around you. Mary was the ugly duckling. Having grown up in a small town, Mary was pushed aside. Chubby, poor and not very attractive. But Mary catches a break. Not being current in social status allowed her to focus on getting into a Ivy League School. Not only was she accepted but she received a full scholarship. Now Mary is back in Minnesota, having been expelled from college, she is now working a minimum wage job at the local grocery store. Can her life get any worse? Then a strange disappearance happens. Mary's childhood best friend has gone missing. Olivia was all of the things Mary was not and yet they bonded. Mary needs to know what has happened to Olivia and is determined to get to the bottom of it . The character development of this novel made this book all the more "real" . I felt as though I personally knew each one of them. Don't get me wrong, each character had their flaws but it made them that much better. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from start to finish. Nice Girls, had me questioning the way I treat people and the judgment we engage in without even recognizing it. I highly recommend this 5 star read!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura Peden

    I kind of wanted Ivy League Mary to get chopped up with an axe by the end 😬

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Mary has just been kicked out of her Ivy League University and is back home. But she refused to talk about it or tell anyone what happened. But in the same day she arrives back in her home town, her best friend from elementary school goes missing. When Mary finds out that another girl who went missing a few months ago has been totally ignored, her instinct is that the disappearances are related and she starts looking into them. I quickly consumed this fantastic, edge-of-your-seat suspense story! Mary has just been kicked out of her Ivy League University and is back home. But she refused to talk about it or tell anyone what happened. But in the same day she arrives back in her home town, her best friend from elementary school goes missing. When Mary finds out that another girl who went missing a few months ago has been totally ignored, her instinct is that the disappearances are related and she starts looking into them. I quickly consumed this fantastic, edge-of-your-seat suspense story! I just had to know what happened. It made me feel uneasy in the best possible way.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    I listened to this and for at least 2-3 full chapters they referred to one specific character by their full name and it irritated me so much that I had to remove alone full star. "Jamie stack can down the stairs ... Jamie stack moved towards me and then Jamie stack did this ...." Listening to that was maddening. I listened to this and for at least 2-3 full chapters they referred to one specific character by their full name and it irritated me so much that I had to remove alone full star. "Jamie stack can down the stairs ... Jamie stack moved towards me and then Jamie stack did this ...." Listening to that was maddening.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    A dark psychological thriller that delves into the long-lasting effects of a tortured adolescence. Mary was meant to finally escape her past and Liberty Lake, Minnesota, when she worked hard to get a scholarship to Cornell University. She thrives at college and is ready for her senior year and graduation when she does something that gets her expelled from school and sent home in disgrace. Back in Liberty Lake, Mary finds that she can't escape who she really is at her core: angry. She takes a low l A dark psychological thriller that delves into the long-lasting effects of a tortured adolescence. Mary was meant to finally escape her past and Liberty Lake, Minnesota, when she worked hard to get a scholarship to Cornell University. She thrives at college and is ready for her senior year and graduation when she does something that gets her expelled from school and sent home in disgrace. Back in Liberty Lake, Mary finds that she can't escape who she really is at her core: angry. She takes a low level job at the local grocery store to start paying off the outstanding student loans, but she and her widowed father stumble through the days and "Ivy League Mary" now fully understands that she is not going anywhere. Then, an old childhood friend, Olivia Willand, disappears and the town goes bonkers to try to find her. Olivia was everything Mary was not -- rich, beautiful, popular, and a rising social media personality. The discovery of a dismembered arm near the lake sends the community into a frenzy, but the remains are not Olivia but belong to another teenager, DeMaria Jackson. Are these two girls linked somehow? Is there a serial killer in this sleepy town? Mary feels bad about her estrangement from Olivia all these years but old resentments only fuel her guilt so she decides to do a bit of investigating. Mostly Mary only makes matters worse for herself and others, but she does not quit. No spoilers. The premise was intriguing and the first person narrative by Mary really puts the reader in her head. Sorry to say, but Mary is really quite a mess. I felt sorry for her and also aggravated at other times. She's a hard character to like. This was a decent debut, but the story really never developed the tension or veracity to get to the point of all the angst. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be social commentary or a murder mystery, and the conclusion was a bit limp after everything that happens. As I always say when exposed to characters like Mary -- she really needs some good therapy! I liked it well enough and will look for this author's next book. Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for this e-book ARC to read and review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    After a disgraceful expulsion from Cornell University, Ivy League Mary (as she was dubbed by her hometown) returns to the Midwest to pick up the pieces of her life. Having changed dramatically from the girl she was in high school, she is initially better received by her former peers. But when a local girl Mary harbors resentment towards goes missing, she connects the dots between this case and that of another missing girl, begins her own investigation, and burns several bridges along the way. To After a disgraceful expulsion from Cornell University, Ivy League Mary (as she was dubbed by her hometown) returns to the Midwest to pick up the pieces of her life. Having changed dramatically from the girl she was in high school, she is initially better received by her former peers. But when a local girl Mary harbors resentment towards goes missing, she connects the dots between this case and that of another missing girl, begins her own investigation, and burns several bridges along the way. To enjoy the story, you have to be willing to accept amateur sleuthing that sometimes feels highly implausible. You also need to be okay with unlikable characters. Mary will give the reader good reason to believe she isn’t a nice girl. I was able to muster sympathy for her, despite this. She didn’t come across as horrible to me, just young, troubled, and impetuous. But if you need your stories to embrace logic and provide a likable cast, this one might not work for you. I thought Nice Girls was well-plotted and a definite page turner. The climax proved tense and immersive, so much so that I could barely catch my breath. This was a very good mystery with fantastic pacing. I especially appreciated the social commentary in this, specifically the way the police responded to two missing girl cases in very different ways, making statements on race and class, and the way that society responded to two different girls, based on their appearances. I think Dang made some sad but important points and parallels. I didn’t quite understand some of the final decisions made by Mary and her father as the story concluded. This didn’t ruin the book for me, but I did feel it diminished a bit of the novel’s power. Other than that, I’ve no complaints. Nice Girls is a well-written, carefully crafted debut. Catherine Dang is a talented writer and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she brings to the thriller genre in the future. I am immensely grateful to William Morrow for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Nice Girls will be out September 14.

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