“A perfectly paced and tautly plotted thriller...and an incredibly accomplished debut” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water), about a beloved high schooler found murdered in her sleepy Colorado suburb and the secret lives of three people connected to her.
How can you love someone who’s done something horribly, horribly wrong? When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her community is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. “A sensational debut—great characters, mysteries within mysteries, and page-turning pace. Highly recommended” (Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels). Hailed as “Gillian Flynn of 2017” (Yahoo! Style), compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow is “engagingly told... its endearing characters’ struggles linger in memory after this affecting work is done” (The Wall Street Journal).
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Danya Kukafka is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Girl in Snow is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead, Cameron thought of her shoulder blades and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.
They called an assembly. The teachers buzzed against the far wall of the gymnasium, checking their watches and craning their necks. Cameron sat next to Ronnie in the top corner of the bleachers. He bit his fingernails and watched everyone spin about. His left pinky finger, already cracked and dry, began to bleed around the cuticle.
“What do you think this is for?” Ronnie said. Ronnie never brushed his teeth in the morning. There were zits around the corners of his mouth, and they were white and full at the edges. Cameron leaned away.
Principal Barnes stood at the podium on the half-court line, adjusting his jacket. The ninth-grade class snapped their gum and laughed in little groups, hiking up their backpacks and squeaking colorful shoes across the gymnasium floor.
“Can everyone hear me?” Principal Barnes said, hands on each side of the podium. He brushed a line of sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, squeezed his eyes shut.
“Jefferson High School is in the midst of a tragedy,” Principal Barnes said. “Last night, we were forced to say good-bye to one of our most gifted students. It is with regret that I inform you of the passing of your classmate, Miss Lucinda Hayes.”
The microphone shrieked, crackled.
In the days following, Cameron would remember this as the moment he lost her. The hum of the overhead fluorescent lights created a rhythm in time with the whispers that blossomed from every direction. If this moment were a song, Cameron thought, it would be a quiet song—the sort of song that drowned you in your own miserable chest. It was stunning and tender. It dropped, it shattered, and Cameron could only feel the weight of this melody, this song that felt both crushing and delicate.
“Fuck,” Ronnie whispered. The song built and built and built, a steady rush.
It took Cameron six more seconds to notice that no one had a face.
He leaned over the edge of the bleachers and vomited through the railings.
Last night: Almond eyes glaring out onto the lawn. A pink palm spread wide on Lucinda’s bedroom window screen. The clouds overhead, moving in fast, a gray sheet shaken out over midnight suede.
“The nurse said you threw up,” Mom said when she picked him up, later that afternoon.
Cameron nudged the crushed crackers and lint on the carpet of the minivan, pushing them into small mountains with the side of his snow boot. Mom took a sip of coffee from her travel mug.
After the initial drama had simmered down, everyone had gathered outside the gymnasium to speculate. The baseball boys said she was raped. The loser girls said she killed herself. Ronnie had agreed. She probably killed herself, don’t you think? She was always writing in that journal. I bet she left a note. Dude, your fucking throw-up is on my shoe.
“Cameron,” Mom tried again, three streets later. She was using her sympathetic voice. Mom had the sort of sympathetic voice that Cameron hated—it seeped from her throat in sugary spurts. He hated to imagine his sadness inside her. Mom didn’t deserve any of it.
“I know this is hard. This shouldn’t happen to people your age— especially not to girls like Lucinda.”
Cameron rested his forehead against the frosted window. He wondered if a forehead print was like a fingerprint. It was probably less identifiable, because foreheads weren’t necessarily different from person to person, un- less you were looking at the print on a microscopic level, and how often did people take the time for that?
He wondered how it would feel to kiss someone through glass. He’d seen a movie once about a guy who kissed his wife through a jail visitation- room window and he’d wondered if that felt like a real kiss. He thought a kiss was more about the intention than the act, so it hardly mattered if saliva hit glass or more saliva.
Since he was thinking about lips, he was thinking about Lucinda Hayes and hating himself, because Lucinda Hayes was dead.
When they got home, Mom sat him down on the couch. She turned on the television. Get your mind off things. She emptied a can of chicken noodle soup into a bowl, but over the whir of the microwave, the voice of the news anchor blared.
“Tragedy struck in northern Colorado this morning, where the body of a fifteen-year-old girl was discovered on an elementary-school playground. The victim has been identified as Lucinda Hayes, a ninth-grade student at Jefferson High School. The staff member who made the horrific find offered no comment. The investigation will continue under the direction of Lieutenant Timothy Gonzalez of the Broomsville Police Department. Civilians are encouraged to report any suspicious behavior.”
Lucinda’s eighth-grade yearbook photo smiled down from the corner of the television screen, her face flat and pixelated. The remote dropped from Cameron’s hand to the coffee table—the back popped off, and three AAA batteries rolled noisily along the table and onto the carpet.
“Cameron?” Mom called from the kitchen.
He knew that park, the elementary school down the block. It was just behind their cul-de-sac, halfway between his house and Lucinda’s.
Before Mom could reach him, Cameron was stumbling down the hall, opening his bedroom door. He couldn’t be bothered to turn on the lights— he was ripping the sheets off his bed, he was pulling his sketchbook and charcoals and kneaded eraser from their hiding spot beneath his mattress.
He ripped out the sketchbook pages one by one and spread them in a circle around his bedroom floor. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dark of his room, but when they did, he was surrounded by Lucinda Hayes.
In most of the drawings, she was happy. In most of the drawings, it was sunny, and one side of her face was lighter than the other. The left, always the left. In most of the drawings, she was smiling wholly—not like in the yearbook photo, where the photographer caught her before she was herself.
Lucinda’s face was easy to draw from memory. Her cheekbones were high and bright. The lines near Lucinda’s mouth gave her the appearance of effortless happiness. Her lashes were thick and winged outward, so if Cameron skewed the shape of her eyes or set them too deep beneath her brow line, you could still tell it was Lucinda. In most of the drawings, her mouth was open in laughter; you could see the gap between her two front teeth. Cameron loved that gap. It unclothed her.
Cameron pressed his eyes to his kneecaps. He could not look at Lucinda like this because he had missed her most important parts: The way her legs flew out when she ran, from all those years of ballet. How her hair got frizzy at the front when she walked home from school in the heat. The way she sat at her kitchen table after school, listening to music on her shiny pink MP3 player, drumming white-painted fingernails against the marble. He always imagined she listened to oldies because he thought they fit her. Little bitty pretty one. Cameron had missed the way she squinted when she couldn’t see the board in class, the creases at the corners of her eyes like plastic blinds she had opened to let in the sunlight.
He couldn’t look at Lucinda like this because now she was dead, and all he had were the useless things—a smeared charcoal iris. A pinky finger drawn quickly, slightly too thin.
“Oh God, Cam,” Mom whispered from the doorway. “Oh, God.”
Mom stood with her hands on the doorframe, taking in his ring of drawings, looking like she might crumple. Her pink, striped sweater looked fake and sad, and Cameron wanted to melt her right into him so she wouldn’t look so old. The way Mom’s hands clung to the doorframe reminded Cameron of when he was a kid and Mom did ballet in the basement. She used the dirty windowsill as a barre and put her Mozart tapes in the cassette player. She whispered to herself. And one and two and three and four. Jeté, jeté, pas de bourrée. Cameron watched through the railing of the basement stairs. Her old back never straightened, and her old toes never pointed, and she looked like a bird with a body of broken bones. It made him sad to watch her dance because she looked so fragile and so expressive and so happy and so fragmented, all at once. Mom looked like herself when she danced; he had always thought so.
Cameron wanted to tell Mom that he was sorry for all of this. But he could not, because of the horrified way she was looking at his collection of Lucinda.
Cameron put his head back on his knees and kept it there until he was sure Mom had gone.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Girl in Snow includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with Danya Kukafka. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
When the shocking news of Lucinda Hayes’s murder reaches the residents of suburban Broomsville, Colorado, on a cold February morning in 2005, it impacts three of them more profoundly than others.
The countless nights he’s spent spying on Lucinda Hayes through her bedroom window convince Cameron Whitley that he knows her more fully than anyone. But Cameron’s emotional disturbances and obsessive behavior, his possession of her diary, and his many drawings of Lucinda make him seem more like her crazed stalker than a true friend.
Jade Dixon-Burns merely resented Lucinda Hayes when she replaced Jade as the Thorntons’ preferred babysitter, but in becoming the girlfriend of Jade’s only friend, Zap Arnaud, Lucinda aroused Jade’s focused hatred. Now that her nemesis is gone for good, Jade can’t help but feel guilty about the rituals she performed in the hopes of causing Lucinda physical harm.
Officer Russ Fletcher is haunted by Lucinda, not because hers is the first dead body he has ever seen on the force, but because he feels emotional obligations toward two of the suspects in her murder. As he confronts a series of troubling episodes in his own past, Russ must sort through complicated feelings about love and truth.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. “When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead, Cameron thought of her shoulder blades, and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.” (4) How did the intensely vivid opening of Danya Kukafka’s novel impact you as a reader? Discuss the author’s decision to reveal the death of Lucinda Hayes at the outset. How does the fact of Lucinda’s untimely death establish an immediate mood of suspense?
2. Why does Cynthia Whitley wait before she questions Cameron about his cache of drawings of Lucinda Hayes? Coupled with Cameron’s hazy memory and his dubious reliability as narrator of his own experiences, how does Cynthia’s revelation that Cameron was absent from his bedroom on the night of Lucinda’s murder inform your sense of him as a possible suspect in her murder?
3. “You’re the dead girl’s stalker, aren’t you?” (32). When she first introduces herself to Cameron, Jade Dixon-Burns identifies him as Lucinda Hayes’s stalker—an open secret of sorts at Jefferson High School, where a classmate has cruelly nicknamed him “American Psycho.” Why might Jade’s background render her sympathetic to Cameron’s predicament? Compare and contrast Jade and Cameron’s “outsider” status in the insular community of their high school.
4. “[I]n these rare moments of reminiscence, Russ wonders if he always knew—somewhere locked and hidden away—what would come of Lee Whitley.” (27) How do Russ Fletcher’s experiences on the Broomsville Police Department shadowing Officer Lee Whitley interfere with his gut instincts when it comes to finding Lucinda Hayes’s killer? How does his marriage to Ines further complicate his considerations?
5. How does Jade Dixon-Burns’ actual life compare with the semi-autobiographical screenplays she composes in her mind? What clues do these adaptations of her real-life encounters offer readers about her inner life and her adolescent preoccupations?
6. Discuss the meaning of “Untangle,” the safety word given to Cameron by a psychiatrist to help him cope with his anxiety in the aftermath of his dad’s disappearance. To what extent do Cameron’s unique qualities (his artistic intensity, his emotional volatility, his status as a social loner, his obsessive tendencies) mark him as a typical adolescent, and in what ways do they hint at a deeper mental instability?
7. How would you describe Lucinda Hayes, based on the many details we learn about her over the course of Girl in Snow? How does her fleeting appearance in Cameron’s house during the neighborhood block party seem almost like a hallucination on Cameron’s part? Why do you think the author chose to incorporate that particular scene into the book, and what does it suggest about Lucinda and her many entanglements?
8. “[Cameron] found people fascinating when they thought no one was watching. He couldn’t tell them about the sincerity of life through windows—that he hated himself for it, but he couldn’t stop.” (36) Voyeurism plays a prominent role in Girl in Snow—even the mountains are described as “always watching.” Discuss the way in which looking from the outside in operates in this novel. How do the characters’ many different kinds of looking echo the narrative arc of finding Lucinda’s killer?
9. Why does Russ refuse to accept Ines’s ex-con brother, Ivan Santos, as a born-again Christian? Other than his discovery of Lucinda’s body and his prior criminal history, what makes Ivan suspicious to Russ and others in the Broomsville Police Department? Do you think their ideas about him are colored by his race, or his social status?
10. Jade’s faithful adherence to the rituals described in Modern Witchcraft: A Guide for Mortals makes her feel responsible in some way for Lucinda’s murder. Discuss the role of the supernatural in Girl in Snow. To what extent do Jade’s and Cameron’s experiences seem infused with an element of the surreal?
11. Girl in Snow examines romantic relationships in all of their brokenness: Cameron’s unrequited obsession for Lucinda; Jade’s almost-proprietary love for Zap; Russ’s repressed love for Lee Whitley; Lucinda’s illicit affair with Mr. Thornton; Ines/Querida’s extramarital trysts with Marco. Of these different iterations of love, which did you find most compelling and why?
12. How would you describe Pine Ridge Point and what it represents to Cameron? Why is this the place he turns to at the book’s climax?
13. “Lucinda turned around, looked back at him in the shadows. Direct eye contact. . . . Bear witness, she seemed to say.” (305) Cameron interprets Lucinda’s behavior in the days before her death as indicative of her desire for him to know the truth, claiming “she’d left [her diary] on purpose” for him to find. To what extent does Cameron’s understanding of events seem believable?
14. Many of the characters in Girl in Snow carry secrets around with them. How do these secrets inform their behavior and their decision-making? To what extent does the theme of secrecy that the novel establishes relate to the concurrent theme of voyeurism?
15. How did you feel about the resolution of Lucinda’s murder? Looking back, what clues does the author of Girl in Snow include to foreshadow the identity of the perpetrator?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. In Girl in Snow, Lucinda’s diary becomes a piece of evidence, but with the exception of one brief passage, readers remain unaware of its contents. Ask members of your book group to collectively imagine what information Lucinda’s diary might have contained. In your discussion, your book club may want to consider diaries they have kept during the course of their lives, or about the sorts of revelations that diaries encourage.
2. Girl in Snow adheres to many classic conventions of the mystery novel genre, including a police investigation that is hampered by multiple suspects. Ask members of your group to discuss their suspicions about the real culprit in Lucinda’s murder. How does the author’s detailed portrayals of Cameron Whitley, Jade Dixon-Burns, and Ivan Santos distract from Lucinda’s actual killer? Members of your club may want to consider other possible suspects (Lee Whitley, Mr. O, Zap Arnaud, Mr. Thornton) who came to their attention as possible contenders in the course of their reading.
3. The insular world of high schoolers portrayed by Danya Kukafka in Girl in Snow may trigger high school memories for members in your book group. Ask members of your book club to share some of their experiences in high school. Did they know classmates who remind them of the characters in the novel? How might the untimely death of a student in their high school have played out, or—if such a tragic death occurred—how did it reverberate in their larger community?
A Conversation with Danya Kukafka
Girl in Snow is your first novel. Who are some of the mystery writers you most admire, and why?
Megan Abbott is one of my favorite writers—her books have mysteries at the core, but they also investigate teen lives in a serious and sophisticated way; I love Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, which also bends the mystery genre to examine race, class, and family; and Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, both of which toy with form and structure to create suspense. I’m also a big fan of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Emma Donohue.
At what point in plotting your novel did you realize that three characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—would be the primary focus of your work?
The book started as only Cameron’s story. I actually wrote an entire draft, just from his perspective! But I couldn’t get to a reasonable ending, so Jade was created from a character in a short story I’d written. I added all her sections into what already existed of Cameron’s, and the story really opened up from there. Russ came much later, when I had my agent and editor’s brilliant brains involved in the writing process.
You chose to write about young teenagers; many of these characters can’t even drive yet. Why teenagers, and why early high school?
At fifteen years old, you aren’t quite a child but you certainly aren’t an adult. You also feel so much. Emotions are wild at that age (I believe we all dull out a bit as we get older). Teens can be unapologetically nostalgic, or angry, or sentimental, and every reader can remember what that’s like. I think a lot of us still yearn for that depth of feeling.
Throughout Girl in Snow, Cameron’s mental/emotional condition is difficult to pin down. To what extent is this uncertainty an element you included to keep your readers unsure about his culpability in Lucinda’s murder?
I was careful not to diagnose Cameron with anything specific—he is unstable, yes, but he’s also a very young teenager who has been through multiple traumas. I wanted his emotional state to reflect the idea that none of us are easy to pin down, that there is no such thing as “normal.”
You open Girl in Snow with the news of Lucinda Hayes’s death. How challenging was it to structure your narrative around an event that has happened largely out of sight of the characters who are coming to terms with its effects?
This was actually the fun part! There is a body, and a murderer, but exploring the outer edges of that—the secret lives of Cameron, Jade, and Russ as they understand the event on their own terms—was much more interesting to me than getting into the how and why of Lucinda’s death. It was difficult at first to wrangle all the right puzzle pieces to tie up the plot, but once they were there, I was free to roam around the edges of the story, which I found very satisfying.
Is there a connection between Cynthia Whitley’s past as a ballerina and the ceramic figurine that leads to the identity of Lucinda’s murderer?
Cameron’s fascination with the human body is part of what makes him so observant—I studied ballet for many years, and though this wasn’t a connection I consciously intended to make, I realized that dance was the form through which I, as a writer, best understood how to examine anatomy. So in that sense, Cameron’s eyes are an extension of my own.
No fewer than four illicit relationships come to light over the course of Girl in Snow: Mr. Thornton’s affair with Lucinda Hayes, Ines’s affair with Marco, Russ’s encounter with Lee Whitley, and Lee Whitley’s affair with Hilary Jameson. What can you tell us about the recurring themes of forbidden love in your novel?
There’s a certain electricity to forbidden love, which could be why it often makes great fodder for storytelling. When the stakes are high, the margin for disaster is also high. I was glad to at least give Ines and Marco a happy ending.
You work as an editor in the publishing industry at your day job. To what extent does your wealth of experience as both editor and writer make you better at both of your jobs?
My work as an editor makes me a much more patient writer. It’s reassuring to see how much work goes into every single book that is published— nothing comes out perfectly in a first draft, and because of my job I’m able to sit down to write without thinking “this will be published.” Instead, I can think “this will be thrown out and rewritten twenty more times, and then eventually it might be done.” Writing makes me a better editor because I have a certain sense of empathy—I know what writers are going through when the revision process gets tough, and when they’re feeling anxious or worried. I’m able to tell them, honestly, that I’ve been through it.
What are some of the common misconceptions people have when they think about what it takes to write a book and how to find a publisher for it?
For me, and for many writers I know, writing is serious work that needs to be treated like a job rather than a hobby we do for pleasure. (Though pleasure is of course a wonderful bonus when the writing is going well.) Also, I think a common misconception is that you can find and agent or editor—or even assess the value of your own work—before it’s in fully readable form. The road between an unfinished draft and the final one is long and difficult, and I often meet people who just want the publication process to begin. But you have to do the writing first, and you have to be very committed to it.
You set your novel in 2005, well before the advent of social media and its nonstop connectivity. Please discuss the considerations behind this authorial choice.
I was a teenager in 2005, before Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat—all these platforms that allow us to convince other people that we are certain versions of ourselves. In 2005, I had a secret Myspace page that my parents didn’t know about, and a cell phone that could send and receive fifty texts a month, but beyond that, my interactions were limited to what I could experience in real life, with other people. Girl in Snow is very much about what we see, and how that compares to truth and reality. I think if Lucinda had a Facebook page, her death might have looked much different. I wanted to free the book of the complications that come with the ability to curate your own persona on a public platform.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good mystery but some slow parts. Touches on themes of immigration, mental illness, abuse, self-image, acceptance.
"Girl in Snow" is an intriguing mystery that follows three seemingly unrelated individuals following the murder of a teenage girl, Lucinda. In alternating sections, we follow Cameron, basically her stalker, Jade, a girl from whom Lucinda has taken a job and a friend, and Russ, the detective who is investigating the case. After the news gets out about her murder, there are many accusations and potential suspects. Cameron has been obsessed with Lucinda and watches her through her window and follows her sometimes. He also sometimes gets "tangled," a word he uses to describe his mental confusion. Sometimes he worries that he can commit crimes without wanting to, as though his body would act without his brain. Cameron cannot remember where he was or what he was doing the night Lucinda died. Jade cleans hotel rooms- a job she got after Lucinda shamelessly stole her babysitting job. Jade hates Lucinda and does not feel the need to conceal it or pretend it was anything different after Lucinda died. She also has the 'screenplay' interspersed throughout the book of "What You Want to Say But Can't Say without Being a D***" which contains the things she wished she said but has filtered out of her conversations with other people. Russ is the detective assigned to investigate Lucinda's death, but he is haunted by the events of something else from several years before. We slowly get details about what happened in the past (which bears weight on him and the present) and the turns the current investigation is taking. I found this to be more of a character study than anything else, and I mostly enjoyed reading about the three characters. It did seem to stall a bit in the middle, but I hung in there because I wanted to know who killed Lucinda. I did not particularly connect with any of the three main characters for various reasons, but none of them struck me as particularly likable (of course, this is always a personal thing about connecting to the characters). This may have made it feel like it was dragging a bit more than it did. I found the beginning really gripping as we get into the case and characters, and it definitely picked up at the end as we get resolutions for the past and present. Overall, it was an interesting character study that followed people surrounding the death of a teenage girl. Please note that I received this book through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
A young girl is found dead in the snow and the author leads you on a twisted path into the minds of possible killers. Cameron a boy who has many psyscological problems and an unhealthy facination with the dead girl. Jade a girl horribly abused by her mother and who hated the dead girl. Mr. O the art teacher who was so friendly with Cameron's mom is found with something of the dead girls he shouldn't have. Russ the cop who is to sort out the details and find out who killed her also has secrets in his life. You'll be sucked in and have a hard time figuring "who did it" and why and you won't want to quit reading till you find out.
"Girl In Snow" is an impressive debut, especially when you consider just how young Kukafka was whilst writing it. Set in a small suburb of Broomsville, Colorado it begins with the discovery of the dead body of Lucinda Hayes, a popular high school freshman. Suspicion immediately falls on Cameron, a boy known to be fascinated (maybe even infatuated) with her. Cameron often behaves erratically but we know he cannot have been the culprit as that would be too predictable...So who did it? The book has a very interesting and unique structure - there are three different perspectives which are from the three characters that the story revolves around - there are two first person narratives and one in first person with random interjections of a characters thoughts which they are too anxious to voice. The three perspectives the story is told from are - Cameron Whitley, Jade Dixon-Burns (a classmate of both Cameron and Lucinda) and Russ Fletcher, a police officer who happens to be in love with Cameron's father. Pefectly paced, well written and tautly plotted, "Girl In Snow" explores the distinction and overlap of love vs. obsession and our inability to be able to distinguish between the two when we are experiencing one or the other (or both). This is such a mature and accomplished novel for a 19 year old to have written, it really is quite outstanding! The main message the author wishes us to take away from the reading experience is that sometimes our perceptions cannot be trusted - what we see is not necessarily how it actually is, this applies even more now with the meteoric rise of social media. There are varying levels of good and evil, and nothing is as simple as black and white. The book is set in 2004-2005 so social media didn't play as big a part in this particuar story but you can see how social media has changed the concept of perception. Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. A complex and intriguing read that is deceptively dark and creepy in places. I finished this in a day as I was propelled by the psychological aspects of the book to find out what actually occurred and the conclusion was a great close to the story. This is an ideal story for the young adult audience as well as those who enjoy dark literary murder mysteries. The prose is luscious and textured and of a higher quality than most YA or mystery/thriller novels so I feel adults will also find something here to appreciate, I certainly did. A beautifully nostalgic and immersive reading experience, I am already looking forward to Kukafka's next book. The characters come alive on the page and even though they have the customary flaws they also have redeeming qualities which make them relatable - there's no doubt this author is a huge talent! Many thanks to Picador for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
When I started this book, I was expecting a mystery or suspenseful story based on what I thought the book was about, I was very disappointed. This story is about three characters; Cameron, Jade and Russ and what they learn about themselves in the aftermath of the death of a ninth grader, Lucinda. The mystery element is there, with the investigation here and there throughout the book, but it was almost an afterthought. I plugged away at the story, but found it very slow moving and there was not much happening until almost 75% of the way through. As we learn more about the three characters, we see their dark sides and their secrets. There is a lot of foreshadowing throughout the book, but it is still hard to catch the clues and information as you go through. Much of what we learn about the characters had nothing to do with the murder. Having said all that, Danya Kukafka's writing is beautiful. It’s lyrical and very descriptive. It often felt like you were in a dream or hazy foggy place wondering what would come next. I did not become attached to any of the characters while reading this book. It was not until the last quarter or so of the book where the real killer is revealed that had me interested. It moved quickly and the suspense built up. I did not enjoy this book, but it does not mean others would feel the same way. If you are a fan of introspective writing styles and like books that explore inner turmoil or struggles of the characters, then you will probably enjoy this book much more than I did. As I said above, the writing is wonderful, I did not enjoy the story.
I started this book a couple of times and it took me a little bit to get into. I appreciate this is a debut book for a younger author and believe she has touched on a lot of deep feelings and ideas while walking us through each chapter, written from the perspective of the given characters. I think part of what I was having a hard time grasping was why I wanted to finish the book and if I was really dedicated to finding out what truly happened. I feel like I wasn't connected enough to the characters and the storyline to feel I needed resolution in the end. I did enjoy the unique way the story was written, seeing the story unfold through the eyes of each character the chapters were assigned to. I believe this story will appeal to many readers who enjoy a detailed, suspenseful tale, but it wasn't one of my favorite books.
This book followed the point of view of three different people, which I love in a thriller. Cameron, Jade and Russ are all completely different. Cameron was extremely lonely and misunderstood, he was stalking Lucinda. Jade used to be friends with Lucinda, but now hated her. She has a rough family life in the way of her mother not understanding her. Russ was the policeman set to take on the case. I loved that you got a ton of internal dialogue through each point of view, it really helped you to understand each characters actions. This book was very mysterious. For this reason I read it in one sitting, because I just had to know what was going to happen and what happened to Lucinda. I thought the writing flowed beautifully and each character’s point of view added a lot to the story. I did think the story dragged a bit, throughout the middle, which I find a lot in mystery/thriller books. Overall I was interested in each character a lot, especially Lucinda. I thought the story was told in very unique way, but was not so much an extremely unique story. I would recommend this book if you enjoy books told in multiple point of views, with gorgeous writing, and a large air of mystery throughout.
3.5 stars Girl in Snow is an interesting story that follows the investigation of Lucinda's murder from three distinctly unique points of views. Kukafka does an excellent job in portraying the personality differences between Cameron, Russ, and Jade with her writing. I truly wasn't able to guess who was actually responsible for Lucinda's death until it was revealed. I did wish this story had more of a thriller aspect to it to add a little extra excitement and anticipation to it, but I still thoroughly enjoyed Kukafka's realistic small town mystery. I voluntarily received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Reading Danya Kukafka's "Girl in Snow" is a voyeuristic experience in itself. In this psychological mystery, Kukafka lets us glimpse the unpolished truth by stripping the varnish off of her characters and exposing them as the raw and blemished people that they are. In a small Colorado suburb, sparkling teenager Lucinda Hayes is found murdered. Kukafka unmasks the mystery with unnerving patience, allowing the reader into the minds of three characters: Cameron, a sensitive loner; Jade, an insightful misfit; and Russ, the cop fettered by his own insecurities. Kukafka's prose is lovely and haunting, and her imagery lingers, leaving this reader feeling as much a watcher as her memorable characters.
Colorado-based mystery novel – quite good Based in a small town in Colorado, this novel deals with the murder of a high-school student, Lucinda, and the investigation into her death seen through the eyes of three narrators: Cameron, a student with developmental problems, Jade, a high school loner, and Russ, a policeman assisting with the investigation. ~With an interesting surprise at the end, it's reasonably interesting but I found the language a bit too affected in places. Characters are well-developed and murder, adultery, abuse all come into the plot. Quite good therefore but certainly not a favourite of mine. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book was not marketed properly--no fault of Kukafka, but shame on her publisher's marketing team! It was touted as a mystery or thriller, and it's neither. It's literary fiction that happens to have a murder in it. Most characters were not invested in solving the murder. Yes, they wanted answers, but they never sought them out themselves like the protagonist of a mystery generally does. The book has three points of view, Cameron, Jade, and Russ. While each character was unique, the voice felt too similar throughout. Repeated phrases between sections often tore me out of the story. The style was very stream-of-consciousness, especially for Cameron, so if you stop reading somewhere besides a chapter break, you will probably get lost as to what time-frame the character is in. However, if read through without pause, each chapter felt very organic and flowed easily. Kukafka's style was rich and deep, but the plot didn't live up to the quality of writing. The climax felt quite anticlimactic. But like I said at the beginning, it's literary fiction, not a thriller or true mystery, so the climax doesn't have to be some sort of fight scene or car chase. My disappointment was, once again, due to the poor choices of the publisher's marketing team. Read it if you want literary fiction! Don't read it if you want a mystery or thriller.
I loved everything about this book. The story drew me in from the very beginning. A girl named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered and it sends the town in an uproar, because nothing like this ever happens in the sleepy suburb of Colorado. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. Cameron is the kid who is obsessed (to say the least) with Lucinda. Jade is the girl who wanted to be Lucinda. Russ is the police officer who is charged with investigating Lucinda's murder. Essentially, the novel follows the three main characters and you get to see how they make their journey to find (and reveal) their/the truth. It was a great book.
I tried really hard to like Girl in Snow, Danya Kukafka’s debut novel. When that failed, I forced myself to finish it. I hoped it would improve, that something would bring me to the edge of my seat. Instead, I ended up swallowing an anti-climatic jumble of words with little of the characteristics of a mystery novel and absolutely none of what a reader expects in a thriller. This review is not a reflection of Kukafka’s ability to write; she certainly has a knack for character development. Rather, it’s a statement of the banality of this work. Girl in Snow drags from page to page, with each chapter revealing more useless facts about each character. Sure, Cameron’s love borders on obsession; yes, Jade is a brat; and Russ is simply a police officer. By the last page though, readers learn every little detail of these three’s life – but for what purpose? Girl in Snow may appeal to readers who like something that crawls at a snail’s pace, but labeling this book a thriller is misguiding. I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Lucinda Hayes, a teenager, has been found dead in the local playground. Her neck was broken. There are several suspects and at one time or another I had my mind made up who had done it. However, I was totally wrong. Yay! The story is told by two teenagers that went to high school with Lucinda. Eaching having a different connection to the deceased girl. One a stalker secretly in love with her and the other, a friend who was (in her mind) betrayed by her. Jade and Cameron are both loners and total misfits. You can't help but feel for them. I loved Jade's screenplays that map out "what she should of said or done". While the book starts out on a suspense novel with a gruesome death at the beginning, the gist of the book is so much more. A book of insights, discoveries, loss, finger pointing, betrayal and raw human emotion while dealing with a murder in a small town. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I love the character study aspect of this story. Kukafka does an amazing job of putting you inside her characters. On the other side of this, I felt the reveal of the plot twist was a throwaway. There wasn't enough context & I felt that just as the plot was set to climax, the author pulled the punch & missed an opportunity. I don't know what ending I would I have preferred; I just know that this felt weak. If you like character over story, this is a great read but if the plot is king for you, this may be a miss.
Lucinda Hayes is found dead one day, lying in the snow on the playground carousel. But who did it? Lucinda was a popular, well-liked girl, so it is a tremendous shock to the small town in Colorado. Could it be the boy who stalks her… and loves her? Could it be the “big boned” girl at her school? How about the school janitor, the foreign man who discovered her body? Or is it the sensitive, well-liked art teacher? You won’t be able to put down this book until you discover who murdered Lucinda Hayes! Told by three misfit characters, Cameron, Jade and Russ, the reader is fed details little-by-tantalizing-little. Talk about suspense! And Danya Kukafka’s prose along the way paints some unforgettable imagery for the reader. This one can't be missed! I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was not your traditional mystery. There is not a lot of investigating by the police. The focus is on understanding the three main characters, Cameron, Jade and Russ. I think the author’s intent with providing so much detail on all the characters and the side stories was to distract you from solving the mystery. The mystery did not seem to be the focus of this story. What I didn’t like: Jade’s perspective is told in two ways. One, what she actually says. Two, what she wishes she would say through a play she is writing. This felt redundant to me and distracting. The story was slow in the beginning. Some of the side stories seemed unnecessary and distracting. For instance, Jade’s conversations with the homeless man. I could not see what this added to the story. What I did like: Towards the end of the book I enjoyed the detail of the characters and the relationship with each other. I did not guess the ending. Who would like this book: If you like relationship drama with a little touch of mystery thrown in, you might like this book. This is NOT an edge of your seat thriller or compelling murder mystery.
Not easy to put down a review for this story. While I like murder stories and seeing how characters develop and figuring out the how and why, this book couldn’t quite live up to my expectations. It was a good debut novel and I definitely will follow this authors future work, because I can see a lot of potential in this book. But I can’t say more than this was an okay read. It felt that the murder took second place to the character studies and this made for a slow reading process. I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster!
Note: Top Shelf Text received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own! When I first picked up Girl in Snow, I was expecting another quick thriller to add to the stack that I've flown through and raved about this summer. What I found, however, was not the heart-stopping, twisty novel that I've come to expect from the genre, but an astounding observation of human flaw. This is not a novel that had me anxiously awaiting the big twist (though there was somewhat of a twist involved), rather I found myself fascinated by Kukafka's treatise on human obsession. Before I dive in, I should tell you that I loved the first half of this book, and it was in the second half that I realized it really hadn't been marketed correctly. I generally think of thrillers as the type of book that has you turning pages as fast as possible, but this novel had me soaking up the story in a different way. The novel is written from three perspectives: Russ, a cop with a hollow marriage, Jade, a bruised and resentful social outsider, and Cameron, the strange boy whose father committed the town's most scandalous crime. All three perspectives tell the story of the aftermath of the murder of. Lucinda Hayes. Lucinda was a popular high-schooler who was found murdered at the elementary school playground. It's a small town, and there are no witnesses and a long list of suspects. Instead of an investigation into the crime, however, we get more of a glimpse into the ruins of our three narrators' personal lives, and how Lucinda's death created further cracks in their relationships with others. The reading experience itself reminded me of how I felt when reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, during which I loved the style of writing -- it was prosaic -- but was so uncomfortable with the story itself (if you've read it, you can probably guess which part of the story I'm talking about) that I ended up with mixed emotions about the book as a whole. For a while I struggled to give this novel a rating because I felt divided on the concept of plot vs. prose. It was in talking to other readers that I realized this isn't actually a thriller -- not the type that I've come to expect, at least. I can see the reading experience being completely different for each reader, depending on your fascination (or ability to watch) characters descend into their own neuroses. The impact of this novel will drive me to read whatever Kukafka comes out with next, and I want to mention here that this is her debut. At twenty-four years old (we are the same age), I am somewhat in awe of her ability to write.
Copy received via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This isn't the sort of book that I read frequently, but frankly having read and love Girl on the Train, I have a new respect for the mystery-thriller genre. And I'm so glad that I read Girl in Snow. I love a character driven novel and this was so detailed in its characters that it was nearly a study. Brief synopsis: A beautiful and popular high school girl, Lucinda, is found brutally murdered in a school playground. The detective investigating the case has a vested interest in the innocence of one of the suspects, and a vested interest in the guilt of the other. And an outcast, the deliberately rebellious Jade, feels connected to the dead Lucinda in a way she never did when the girl was alive. The story is told through the three narrators, detective Russ, cynical (and "jaded") Jade, and sensitive Cameron. Cameron, Jade and Lucinda all went to the same school. A budding artist with what seems to be an unnamed Asperger's, Cameron is love with Lucinda from afar. Not that afar, though, as he spends his nights watching her through her window. This is a secret activity, but not completely unnoticed. Lucinda's father, and Jade herself, are aware of Cameron's nightly haunts. Told in character-devoted sections, Girl in Snow delves deeply into the minds of the three narrators so effectively that you can't help but feel more sorrow for our three heroes than for the dead girl herself, who serves mostly as a benign device. Which is absolutely fine because the writing in this book is stellar--crisp, clean, and evocative. Jade and Russ will break your heart. Cameron too is a deeply sympathetic character, although the sheer nature of his Asperger's Syndrome become tiresome and repetitive and this was the only drawback to this beautifully written novel. Still, I loved Cameron and wanted only good things for him. This is a debut novel for author Danya Kukafka. This writer is extraordinary and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. I highly recommend.
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka is a recommended murder mystery, highly for the right reader, that focuses on character studies of three individuals. The body of 15-year-old Lucinda Hayes, a popular high school student, is discovered on a playground in Broomsville, a quiet Colorado town. Girl in Snow follows the investigation through three different characters: Cameron, Jade, and Russ. Ninth-grader Cameron Whitley was obsessed with Lucinda and stalked her, often watching her house at night. He also did numerous drawings of her. Did Cameron's love for her somehow result in violence? Jade Dixon-Burns, an overweight 16-year-old with acne and an abusive mother, hated Lucinda for stealing her babysitting job and her best friend. Russ Fletcher is a local police officer who is on the case. He promised his former disgraced partner, Cameron's missing dad, that he'd look out for Cameron, but he is unsure if this is possible. Russ's ex-con brother-in-law, Ivan, is the overnight janitor at the school and also a suspect. Chapters in the novel switch between these three narrators and the bulk of the action is set over a three day period. The murder mystery part of the novel is downplayed in favor of the careful scrutiny of the thoughts, actions, and past events in the lives of Cameron, Jade, and Russ, whether it all relates to the mystery or not. This makes for an interesting character study but becomes tedious as solving the murder mystery is exponentially drawn out for far too long in the plot. It almost felt like the end result was an afterthought. There is also a slight YA feel to the novel, perhaps because of the focus inside the heads of two teens. Cameron's narrative feels dreamy, unfocused, and there are large section of time where he can't remember what happened. Jade's narrative sections also include scenes from plays she is writing based on real life interactions and conversations. She had some big reason's to hate Lucinda and this is fully explored. The end result of focusing on these two teens is that you get a double-portion of teen angst and anxiety, but less murder investigation. Kukafka is a writer to watch, however, because of the quality of her writing and the portraits she creates of these three individuals. While the novel did feel a bit overlong and drawn out at times due to the dense prose, the skillful character studies also set it apart. This may not quite be the murder mystery you hoped you were picking up, but it is a fine character study and it does provide an answer to the mystery in the end. (3.5 rounded up.) Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Bad Dads, Abusive Moms, Bullying, Affairs and week detectives. Tragic murder of Lucinda Hayes who was in the 9th grade and the supposition of who done it is the basis of this novel. Point of View and character exploration of Cameron Whitley, Russ Fletcher, and Jade Dixon-Burns. Russ is the detective in Boonsville Colorado whose partner was Cameron's Dad. Cameron is a troubled teen with an amazing talent in art. Jade is misunderstood by her peers and abused by her Mom. Kukafka seems to predominately present a story of psychological hardships instead of solving the crime. Just did not hold my interest with the plot or the characters. "A copy of this book was provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read and my comments here are my honest opinion."
Great book! Very talented author!