The Roanoke Girls begins with Lane facing her detached mother’s suicide and finding out her mom’s estranged family wants to take her in immediately. Surprised by this elusive part of her mother’s past, Lane is anxious to head to Roanoke and learn more about her family’s history. When she arrives, she is greeted by her effervescent cousin, Allegra. Almost immediately, Lane is met with a mystery she can’t untangle as Allegra’s words haunt her, “Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”
Eleven years later, Lane awakens to a phone call from her grandfather informing her of Allegra’s disappearance. Again, those haunting words from years before come to mind. Lane is determined to go back to Kansas and find out what her family has been sweeping under the rugs of Roanoke for generations.
I think I found The Roanoke Girls to be a tad more enjoyable than Sabrina did. There is something about stories with big, old houses and murky histories that appeals to my tastes. I love being slowly clued into what secrets lie within the walls of homes, and what generations of the inhabitants experienced there. In this case, the story features some taboo subject matter I wasn’t quite prepared for upon starting, but saw coming in the first few chapters. I know that word “taboo” has been thrown around a lot lately in our book community, unfortunately. The Roanoke Girls falls right into the center of this category, but the story’s condemnation of the dirty acts, makes me feel slightly like less of sicko for rating this book so high. Oftentimes dark and twisty novels completely turn me off, but I didn’t want to put this one down. I probably nagged Sabrina halfway crazy each time I asked her if she was ready to read the next few chapters, because I was so anxious to find out what was going to happen. I haven’t been so captivated by a mystery in a long time. I think Amy Engel presented the subject matter at hand in the most… I hate to say “tasteful”, but tasteful way possible. It never became too much to handle for me. However, as Sabrina and I were reading, I don’t know how many times we texted each other the word, “Gross!” Guys, there is a whole lot of gross. There are moments that will make your stomach churn and you’ll wonder why you decided to read this novel, but you’ll realize you won’t be able to pry it from your fingers.
The beauty is in Lane and the journey she goes through, alternating from past to present. Amy Engel wrote her to life in the most vivid way. I felt like I knew her – she could have been any small town girl struggling to make her way in the world. She was basically the same age as Sabrina and I, making her more relatable. Walking in her shoes felt uncomfortable and exciting. Sometimes I wanted to take them off because they were rubbing a nasty blister, but I couldn’t stop myself from walking a little farther.
I felt that Amy Engel gives a satisfying end to this rollercoaster of a novel. My favorite part of the entire story was Lane’s final message on the step of Roanoke. I was so proud of the growth she showed and of her defiance in the end. Overall, I was highly impressed with the writing style and story of The Roanoke Girls.
♥ – Ashley
“Nothing is as it seems” could probably be the theme of this novel. The Roanoke family is rich, powerful and beautiful, but what the family is really “famous” for, only the family members know, and this was not something I was prepared for. Although I read the blurb beforehand, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought the storyline would go in this direction. As Ashley already mentioned, this story will make you cringe and feel icky more than a few times for sure.
Amy Engel chose a very good story narrative that not only alternates between a ‘now’ and ‘then’ first-person narrative from Lane’s POV, there is also a third-person narrative every few chapters, that gives you even more insights of the past happenings in the Roanoke family.
I really enjoyed the ‘then’ and ‘now’ narratives because with every chapter, Ashley and I were given hint after hint in what happened during the summer eleven years ago, plus what happened only a few weeks prior. The great thing was that there was not only one shocking revelation at the end, there were quite a few scattered throughout the book. I liked the story, but there was still something missing for me.
The family constellation in this story is rather tricky and slightly confusing. Besides Allegra and Lane, there have been other Roanoke girls in the past. The family tree in the beginning of the book helped enormously with trying to figure out the relations between all the mentioned characters. More than once I skipped to the beginning and to check the tree.
With The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel, the author of YA dystopian books The Book of Ivy and The Revolution of Ivy, dared to write a book about a very heavy and against the law taboo topic. That taboo topic is currently being discussed by most of us bookworms quite loudly, since an indie author decided to glorify the specific topic in her recent release. Amy Engel, however, decided to condemn this right from the start and made her point of view clear to the target audience.