This review is written with thanks to Hodder and Stoughton and Netgalley for my copy of The Roanoke Girls.
In 2004, sixteen year old Lane is adopted by her grandparents following the death of her mother. She lives with them and her cousin, Allegra, who was also adopted. Whilst living there, she learns that all the Roanoke girls either died or ran away, and is determined to find out what happened to them. But several years later - years after Lane herself decided to leave - she receives news that Allegra is missing and returns to Roanoke to help with the search. Can Lane discover what happened to Allegra?
When Lane receives the phone call from her grandfather, begging her to return to her family, it is clear that she is reluctant to do so. What follows is a story that alternates between "then" and "now" as the reader gradually learns the secrets of the Roanoke family. This helps Engel to build tension, as she gradually drops hints to the reader about what happened: enough so that we are able to guess, but that when the true horror of what happened behind closed doors is revealed, we too are horrified. As the tension built, I was able to consider my own theories about what happened to Allegra and wanted to find out if my suspicions were right. They weren't, and whilst the ending is not a twist as such, the impression it left on me will stay for some time to come.
In The Roanoke Girls, Engel deals with some very emotive themes, and I loved her ability to make me feel every emotion as Lane's first person narrator described it as acutely as if it were my own. I was reminded of my own teenage years, and as such, was drawn into the lives of Lane and Allegra in a way I wasn't expecting, particularly as their experiences and lifestyle were so different from my own upbringing. In a similar way, Engel's descriptions of the location in which the novel is set created a strong sense of place. This was important for me as I am not familiar with the geographical locations about which Engel writes.
It is very rare that I give a book five stars, but The Roanoke Girls evoked every emotion in me, and I enjoyed the journey from start to finish.
The Roanoke Girls is published on 9th March and is available from Amazon.