Release Date: April 24th 2012
Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository
When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder.This is a traditional mystery with enough of a unique twist to make it stand out. I enjoyed it a lot more than my other recent YA mystery read, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, and I think a lot of that has to do with the narrator, Rain. Rain was born with a cleft palate, and as a result had a severe speech impediment for many years. Between surgery and speech therapy, the issue itself is gone, but it's left behind a severe insecurity about speaking in public or doing anything that makes her stand out.
Then came Wendy. I love reading about charismatic bad girls, but what Fredericks does in The Girl in the Park is make that character not just secretly disliked, but openly hated in some situations. That's because Wendy has a habit of sleeping with other peoples' boyfriends to get revenge. But could it have gotten her killed?
At the time the murder takes place, Wendy and Rain aren't actually friends anymore, but Rain still feels a deep connection, even a bit of a responsibility, for Wendy. Their friendship, and the reason it ended, is described in flashback. In general, I'm not a fan of flashbacks, but in this book they work perfectly to compliment the story, providing hints into what may have happened as well as insight into Wendy and Rain.
I loved the dynamic between Rain and Wendy, and felt the characters in general were authentic and interesting to read about. Even though I haven't had Rain's experience with speech difficulties and the bullying they triggered, I could really relate to how she felt, and I think that's because Fredericks drew on universal human feelings in terms of insecurity and how past experiences can define our present, especially in high school.
There were a few missteps for me, and seasoned mystery readers may predict the killer long before the reveal, but there are still plenty of red herrings. My main moment of disbelief came when, instead of going to the cops immediately, Rain confronts the killer, at which point the killer reveals everything... even though it's an awfully stupid thing for them to do. It's a pretty traditional way for the killer's motives to be revealed, but I still didn't find it terribly realistic.
Despite the predictability of the climax, this was a thrilling mystery that was a fast and enjoyable read. I'd definitely consider future novels by Fredericks, and recommend The Girl in the Park to those looking for a well-paced and well-written YA mystery with authentic characters.