By: Michelle Chiang
The Hanging Girl follows seventeen-year-old Skye Thorn, who often gave tarot readings for her classmates throughout her life. And when their small town’s golden girl Paige Bonnet goes missing, Skye decides to use her so-called “abilities” to feed information to the police. But the small prank goes awry, and Skye realises she has to soon figure out who the true perpetrator is.
The novel may be a classic mystery, but the heart of The Hanging Girl centers on characters’ and the relationships between them instead. While the characters do follow certain tropes — the outcast main character, the supportive best friend, the school bitch — none of the characters feel two-dimensional. Throughout the story, Skye struggles with her friends, and her enemies. She stands conflicted about her feelings towards her mother, someone she loves but is also embarrassed by. The main conflict almost seems to parallel her personal struggles.
However, the novel is lacklustre when it comes to the plot. Cook attempts to mislead the reader through the placement of red herring perpetrators, but all of them are embarrassingly easy to spot. The pacing of the novel could also be improved — it isn’t until the second half of the book that the story really starts moving, which means muddling through a lot of monotony before getting to the satisfying bits.
The Hanging Girl stands as an unexpectedly poignant story, featuring an incredibly diverse cast, grapples with complex relationships, and what it means to tell a lie.