ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Mystery, Other, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction

Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


Dividing readers into two categories: loved it or hated it, The Roanoke Girls may just be one of the biggest controversial & twisted books of 2017.

*Book Trigger/Content Warnings: suicide & sexual abuse.  This review will not go into either.


TheRoanokeGirlsAuthor: Amy Engel

Genre: Mystery • Thriller

Version: Hardback (288 pages)

Publisher: Crown (March 7, 2017)

Source: Blogging for Books


Book Description

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.
After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.


  Back in February/March, The Roanoke Girls blew up the bookish community.  Every review I read for this book was very vague, which isn’t uncommon for thriller/mystery type books as it can be hard not to spoil major plot points.   It seemed as if everyone was talking about this book.  After reading the book description, it seemed like any other thriller/mystery book, so what was this big family secret that had everyone talking about this book?  Well bookish community hype, you got to me.   I had to read this book to see what the fuss was about.

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die. 

The Roanoke Girls is told through alternating chapters between past & present.  The present story focuses on the mystery surrounding Allegra’s disappearance, while the past storyline gives us insight into that summer Lane was 16 years old and spent the summer with the Roanokes.  There are also a few chapters where we learn more about some of the other Roanoke girls in the family, but this book focuses primarily on Lane & Allegra.  The book opens with Lane receiving the news that her cousin Allegra has gone missing.  Lane makes the hard decision to return to her family home to help figure out what has happened to Allegra.  The Roanoke Girls is tagged as a thriller, but I would consider this more of a mystery surrounding dark family secrets. 

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As far as the characters go, if you are the type of reader that needs to make a strong connection to the characters to enjoy a book, this may not be the book for you.  Looking back, there really aren’t any likeable characters, this includes the main character Lane.  Lane is a little rough around the edges, which is understandable given her upbringing & family situation.  Despite the fact that Lane isn’t exactly endearing, I still found myself rooting for her & wanting everything to work out for her in the end.  The remaining characters all have their own faults & issues.  I often found myself shaking my head in frustration at the characters & questioning many of the decisions being made.  Basically, all of the characters are a little f***ed up… some more so than others.

Let me make something very clear, this is not a light hearted readThis is one of those books that evokes strong emotions: disgust, suspicion, discomfort, tension…. this is a very dark & sinister read.  You may even find yourself feeling a little guilty for reading it.  It almost felt like a bad accident that you cannot help but look at, even though you know it is horrific.  


Let’s talk about the mystery surrounding Allegra’s disappearance.  It wasn’t a big shocker for me.  Actually, I had to all figured out by page 60 – I like to make my predictions and write them down & where I am at in the book when I make the prediction – so I solved the mystery pretty early on.  Did this take away from my reading experience?   Not really.  Even if you figure this one out early on, I think you will still be immersed in this story, particularly the Roanoke family backstory, as it is slowly revealed throughout the course of the book. Would I have liked to be completely thrown for a loop with the mystery surrounding Allegra?  Sure, BUT thankfully the story was satisfying enough to keep me interested, so it didn’t bother me that the reveal at the end wasn’t particularly shocking.

I did have a few issues with The Roanoke Girls.  There were a few loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up in regards to a few of the side characters.  Once the end came for the main characters, it was almost if the side characters fell off the face of the Earth.  What happens to Tommy?  What is Sharon’s story?  We never learn.  Also there were a few aspects of this novel that I questioned the believability of some of the events/situations.   Could this have happened in real life?  Yes and no.   I do think this situation could have happened in real life (and unfortunately has), but probably not the scope & extent in this book.

Like many other readers have said before me, this book is not going to be for everyone.  I would caution people who are easily scandalized against this one.  The topic isn’t particularly gory, but it is disturbing…  The bomb is dropped early in the book, so at least you will know early on if you can handle the subject matter or not.  I will say that the author doesn’t get too graphic with it, so it wasn’t too hard to stomach.  There is a big positive about reading this book, I can personally guarantee that this book will put your dysfunctional family drama to shame.  So, there’s that.  

This book could make for an excellent book club read, HOWEVER only if all members in your book club have a strong constitution 🙂




5-Star Rating System

This book is very hard to rate.  I’d say it is probably somewhere between 3.5 & 4 stars, so I’ll round up to 4.

*Big thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

AmyEngelAmy Engel is the author of THE BOOK OF IVY young adult series. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. THE ROANOKE GIRLS (March 7, 2017), is her first novel for adults.

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18 thoughts on “Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel”

  1. I really liked this one, but not for the mystery itself…I just thought it was really atmospheric and you’re right I felt guilty but I couldnt stop reading. Plus I liked the relationship between the “couple”!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh… you had me at ‘dark and sinister’! Great review 🙂 I’m very intrigued about this family secret, and you’ve definitely made me want to pick this book up. If I hadn’t bought 20 books at YALC this weekend, I would be ordering it straight away haha. But in a few months time, for sure! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I did!!! 😀 YALC is my happy place – it’s essentially being surrounded by a bunch of lovely people who are obsessed with the same things as you for three whole days 🙂 I hopefully will put a post up about it sometime this week if I have time!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve so glad to read your review, Amanda. As you point out early on, all the reviews I’ve seen in the blogosphere have been really vague. It’s hard to get a good read on this book. Buuuut, this doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. I get bored when I figure out the twist early (which I find is happening more and more often these days….) and I prefer to spend my free time lost in more magical and happy worlds. Are you glad you read this book? I love your book recommendation to book clubs with strong constitutions. Hilarious, but appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad I read this one. I enjoyed this book, but not for the mystery/thriller elements, but more so for the atmosphere & tone of the book. While this book was not easy to read, it was fascinating because it centers around a disturbing topic that is taboo to talk about. I am not sure I would recommend this one to you Jackie. I think you are right, I don’t think you would enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent review! I’ve had this one on my radar for a while and I don’t mind disturbing/dark reads if it’s done right… I’m definitely going to read this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d be very curious to know what you think! This is such a hard book to review. When I finished, I couldn’t tell if I enjoyed it or not? It isn’t exactly a book that you enjoy reading due to the subject matter… but I found myself not able to put it down. I think many people have a curiosity when it comes to disturbing/taboo topics…. I think you need to go into it not anticipating a “thriller” book, and view it as a book about an EXTREMELY dysfunctional family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good to know! The fact that the cover doesn’t really look like a thriller does help with that I guess, because I tend to stay away from blurbs before I read a book to avoid spoilers. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Amanda, I think you did a great job of describing/discussing this book without spoiling it. I remember when it exploded on the book blogger circuit, too. There’s always a thriller that most of my blog friends read, but the reviews all tend to sound the same. I like the way you focused on readers navigating content warnings. Nice job! I recently convinced my book club to read a highly scandalous book that made waves when it was published. Tampa, by Alissa Nutting, is about a young, hot school teaching who develops a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old male student. The book supposedly tosses on its head the notion that girls having affairs with male teachers are abused and boys having affairs with female teachers are “lucky” and should high-five their bros. We’ll be discussing Tampa at the end of August!

    Liked by 1 person

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