Many thanks to Incorgnito Press Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC. This book is being released today, October 13 2020.
My Rating: 2 stars
Based on the description I read of All the Good Little Girls Keep Quiet, I went into it expecting an Adventures of Huckleberry Finn type story with a narrator somewhat like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. I was spot on about the first part. Like Huck, our protagonist, Olive Abernathy, is looked down on by the rest of her Louisiana town and decides to runaway with her best friend, Henry. While Olive is a tomboy like Scout, she is ultimately much more of a spitfire. She has an incredibly strong narrative voice that Kibbee captures well, and many readers will be charmed by her tenacity, even as it gets her into trouble during her journey.
Though I think many people will find Olive a likeable narrator, I had a few problems with her. The first is that Kibbee writes all of her narration in dialect. I’m not a big fan of written dialect and never have been. I can handle it when a character uses it occasionally, but I find it grating after a while. Having the whole book written this way was just too much for me. I may have found it more tolerable if it had been an audiobook; I tend to have an easier time listening to it than reading it. My second problem is with Olive as a character. She’s so angry all the time, and on many occasions kind of bratty. At times, it felt that’s all there is to her, and as a result, I never formed a connection to her and ultimately didn’t care about what was happening in the story.
I also had some trouble with the pacing of the book. Kibbee starts with Olive and Henry running away but flashes back to show the lead up. That would have been fine for me, except we don’t get back to them running away until the halfway point in the book. This killed all the tension and momentum of them running away and resulted in the second half of the book, their actual adventures, feeling rushed. I think it would have worked much better if Kibbee had alternated between things in the past and Olive and Henry’s adventures in the present. The beginning wouldn’t have been so slow to start and the end may have been more developed.
I did love that at it’s heart, this story is about the relationship between a mother and daughter. Even when Olive is train hopping, hitch hiking, and wandering the big city, everything relates back to her mother. I actually really enjoyed Olive’s mother as a character. She has many flaws, but she’s fiercely protective of her daughter. This focus is one of the few things I did enjoy about this book, and I would recommend it to people based on this. I know lots of people love mother/daughter stories, so for those people this is definitely worth taking a look at.
Overall, All the Good Little Girls Keep Quiet wasn’t for me, but based on other reviews, I appear to be in the minority. While I didn’t like it, I can see why other people fell in love with Olive’s spunky narration and the mother/daughter relationship at the center of the story.