Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel | Review with Author Q&A

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published: March 7, 2017
Publihser: Crown
Pages: 276
Received: via TLC Book Tours for honest review
Find Online: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Books-a-million

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane's first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

One of my first Goodreads comments while tracking my reading progress was: "this family is severely messed up... reminds me of a VC Andrews story but BETTER!", all because of the subject matter in this story. After finishing the book, I realized it was so much more.

Lane's story is told in pieces via past and present as well as bits of stories from the other Roanoke Girls both dead and alive. It's also intertwined with Allegra's story which adds even that much more drama to the lives of the Roanoke Girls. I think having the chapters alternate between Lane, Allegra and their female relatives it creates the depth of the backstory needed to understand what was truly happening behind closed doors. 

Lane has not had an easy life - her mother had mental issues stemming from her upbringing and commits suicide, then she's tossed to her grandparents whom she thinks love and want her, but it's so twisted and messed up that she runs. She doesn't have normal relationships with men because she doesn't have a role model to compare to nor does she know how to accept real love. She has many issues to work out during this story and all of the added darkness makes you root for her to rise up like a phoenix from the ashes.

Such a dark subject matter is the topic of this story, but it's handled in such a way that it doesn't overpower the mystery behind the women nor is it written in a way that you would find it overtly sexualized. It's tasteful. And the story ends up feeling like the mystery it should be. You will find yourself unraveling the pieces of where is Allegra and why did she disappear, as well as rooting for Lane to finally let herself be loved. 

I had a few theories running through my mind on where Allegra was and who they should be interviewing to get more info, but I was completely wrong and I love when that happens. The best books to me are the ones that keep you guessing and blindside you in the best way.

Lane does a lot of growing up during her return to Roanoke. Not only is she determined to find out the truth, but she's also allowing herself to let go of the past and try to imagine a proper future for herself where she isn't needing to be on the run to hid from her past and her family. 

The last thing to know about The Roanoke Girls is that the way it's written allows to to know the twisty secret without coming right out and saying it at the beginning. This also allows for Ms. Engel to tell the story about why the family is this way and what caused it to happen.

Remember.... Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

A well written, twisted family story full of secrets that you won't want to miss.

I was lucky enough to submit a few Q&As to Amy for this tour. 
1) What a difficult topic to tackle, but after having read The Roanoke Girls, I think you did such a great job of making the story about the women and the mystery surrounding them and not just their dirty little secret. What inspired you to write about this topic?

The first thing I decided on was the setting for the book. I knew it would take place in a small town in Kansas and would involve a young woman returning after many years away. My mother grew up in a rural Kansas community and I spent a lot of time there as a kid. I loved it but also felt very claustrophobic in that environment. There was always the sense of being watched. I wanted the themes of the book to reflect those feelings and that's really how I settled on the topic for the book. I'm also always interested in the power our families have over us and the sometimes strained relationships between women. So all those idea came into play in creating the story.

2) I really enjoyed that the chapters were written in an alternating fashion including Now & Then and from the different female POVs and not just Lane. Was it hard to write from so many POVs and time frames? How did you keep your thoughts organized while writing it?

To be honest, it wasn't difficult at all, at least with this novel. The whole thing unspooled like a movie in my head and I was able to write it without any sort of outline. I would write a THEN section and then a NOW section, etc. and was somehow able to keep the two time periods straight in my head without much trouble. I did go back and add in the sections from the points of view of the other Roanoke girls after the first draft was done. And once I had a solid draft I made a timeline just to make sure I was correct on the dates people were born. But it was a surprisingly easy process overall.

3) Was it hard switching from writing for YA to writing for adults? How different was it?  

Again, I didn't find it difficult to switch from writing YA to adult. For me, all my books start with the characters. I'm always a character driven writer, and that didn't change at all when I moved from YA to adult. I was definitely able to delve into some darker subject matter with the adult novel, but the actual writing process was very similar.

About the Author:
Amy Engel is the author of THE BOOK OF IVY young adult series. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. THE ROANOKE GIRLS (March 7, 2017), is her first novel for adults. -source


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