About mid-way through Avery Bishop’s debut thriller Girl Gone Mad, Emily Bennett remembers her high school reading of Lord of the Flies and her teacher’s assertion that was the island inhabited entirely by girls, the cruelty inflicted upon each other couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened. Apparently, the teacher didn’t know that sitting in his classroom were five young ladies who could and would inflict cruelty on par or worse than anything the boys dreamed up on Wiliam Goldman’s deserted island.
Girl Gone Mad looks at bullying gone horribly, horribly wrong. In middle school, Emily and her friends form a clique known as the Harpies. When a new girl named Grace arrives at school, Emily invites her into the group, only to see the other members bully and belittle her. Years later, Emily is atoning for her behavior as a psychologist, working with boys and girls who face the type of trauma she and her friends inflicted upon Grace.
And that, as it often does it these books, the past rears its ugly head. The death of one of the members of the Harpies leads Emily down a path as she begins to wonder if someone from her past is intent upon exacting revenge for her and the Harpies’ actions in middle school.
The sheer level of cruelty and bullying inflicted the various members of the Harpies inflicted upon each other will make your skin crawl, especially if you’re the parent of a girl. It starts off seemingly harmless with the initiation ritual involving “borrowing” something from a store at the mall but gets progressively worse as time goes along. The long-term damage to all the girls in the group becomes evident with each page — especially in the case of Emily, who has decided not to have kids in fear of one of the following in her footsteps and how this slowly begins to alienate her seemingly perfect fiancee Daniel.
Full of red herrings and plot twists, Girl Gone Mad keeps piling on distraction after distraction until it the entire story collapses under its own weight in the first quarter of the novel. It’s a case of a couple of twists too many in the final pages and an attempt for the author to attempt to wrap up everything into too neat a final bow. Once we get past the huge shock of Emily seemingly losing her entire life in the course of a few hours thanks to the sins of her past, the twists and turns seem a bit piled on and like Bishop wasn’t necessarily sure how to pull the crazy-train into the station.