While many of us may say we dread our ten-year college reunion, most of us would probably enjoy the opportunity to catch up with old friends. Ambrosia Wellington has good reason to dread her tenth college reunion — she’s spent the past decade distancing herself from the person she was in college and some of the decisions she made back then.
Determined not to attend, Amb receives a hand-written note saying “We need to talk about what we did that night,” and suddenly Amb has to return to Wesleyan to see if someone is prepared to dredge up the past and expose a side of herself she’s worked hard to deny for the past ten years.
Amb’s best-friend from those days was Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, a partner in crime who brought out the best and worst in everyone around her. While Amb was content enough to party her way through school following her high school boyfriend cheating on her, that all goes out the window when she meets Kevin, a guy she has an instant connection with from Dartmouth. One small problem — he’s the steady boyfriend of her roommate, Flora, who Amb has a complicated relationship. Amb is turned off by Flora’s “too good to be true” persona and sets out to destroy not only her relationship with Kevin but also Flora herself. All of this is, of course, egged on by Sully.
Meanwhile, a decade later, Amb is happy and married, sharing a life with her new husband who wants to have a family with her. While Amb outwardly seems to embrace the role as a potential mother, deep down she admits she doesn’t want a child and is still secretly on her birth control medicine. Her husband is enthusiastic to find out more about his wife at the reunion — something Amb wants to control for fear he will discover the truth of who she really is.
Amb and Sully were “mean girls” for lack of a better term — bullies who burned through boys and friends at an alarming rate. They pulled no punches back in the day to get what they wanted — even sewing seeds of distrust between Kevin and Flora to facilitate the break-up. But how far they’re willing to go to get what they want drives the story, as does the alternating back and forth between then and now as reveal after reveal happens.
The Girls Are So Nice Here is told (almost) exclusively from Amb’s point of view and it makes for a fascinating non-reliable narrator study for much of its page count. Amb’s perpetual justifying her behavior (both then and now) helps us understand why she does what she does, even while we don’t necessarily like or agree with it. The question of just how far she will go (again, then and now) drives much of the story and the growing sense of dread at what really happened back then kept me intrigued and hooked.
And then, the novel devolves a bit in the final quarter as the truth comes to light and it becomes less a suspense story and more a slasher/thriller. My eyebrows kept raising for the final quarter of the book — and not always in a good way. The narrative loses some momentum late in the game and rushes in an ending that I’m not sure entirely fits with all the build-up that has come before.