Review: “Pretty Girls Dancing,” Kylie Brant

Pros: Very ‘real’ characters; made me tear up
Cons: One character background
Rating: 4 out of 5

Kylie Brant’s Pretty Girls Dancing concentrates on how devastating it can be to a family when the worst happens. Whitney DeVries disappears without a trace. But this doesn’t just ripple throughout her own family. Another family, the Willards, lost their eldest daughter Kelsey in a very similar manner seven years earlier, and Whitney’s disappearance threatens to shatter what fragile peace they’ve eked out for themselves. It also exposes just how false that peace really is. Kelsey’s younger sister Janie has extreme social anxiety. Her mother Claire wanders about in an alcoholic and pill-induced haze, while father David buries himself in work and a secret side interest. Will Whitney’s disappearance do the same thing to her family? Will Whitney be found alive–or at all? And is it possible Kelsey is still alive too? (After all, even though her disappearance was attributed to the Ten Mile Killer, unlike most of his victims her body was never found.) Will Janie and the rest of the Willard family hold together through this latest reminder of their own tragedy, or will it finally tear them apart?

The mystery is a good one, with plenty of hints and red herrings as to the kidnapper’s identity. We aren’t left in suspense as to whether Whitney was indeed captured by the Ten Mile Killer–she was. He puts her through grueling dance routines all day and whips her when she fails any of his rules, insisting she call him “Daddy” and show him proper gratitude for his efforts. We’re mostly left to wonder who of the various possible men is the kidnapper/killer, and how Whitney’s own story will end. Meanwhile Janie is the closest thing to a main character I’d say, even though we see things through a variety of characters’ eyes, and she’s a compelling character. She’s already made great strides with her crippling anxiety, but that doesn’t keep her from having a hard time of things when Whitney goes missing and she sees her parents fall apart even further than they already have.

Many thrillers concentrate on the hunt for the bad guy, but this one is much more about his effect on his victims’ families. The characters are very ‘real,’ with believable quirks, flaws, and strengths. Probably my only quibble in this area is that the only female agent involved had a history in which she tried to get into bed with the main (married) male agent and left him wondering if she had slept her way up the ladder. It would have been nice to have more character detail than just someone’s implication that she’s a slut. However, on the good side, the ending made me tear up a bit in several places, and that’s a sign of an emotionally riveting tale. All in all, this was a good read.

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