“Girls’ Night Out” by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

I will say at the start of this review that I did not finish Girls’ Night Out and this review will include the reasons why I finally quit, at 69%, first and then my thoughts on the plot as a whole. If you don’t want to read possible spoilers or criticisms of the book, do stop reading here. You have been warned.

There are three primary reasons I tossed my Kindle aside, albeit carefully because that thing is precious, and said “that’s enough” in a defeated voice, defeated because I’ve recently resolved to DNF far less often and finish all my ARCs and this book forced me to DNF and leave an ARC unfinished.

First, and foremost, I don’t connect to these people – Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren (who are 39, not 40 as they do like to remind the read) – at all. Not even remotely. Hence the reason I categorized this book under ‘Rich People Problems’, and I am not rich and would not want to be rich if it made me act like Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren.

Second, Natalie’s slavish devotion to Ashley and Ashley’s gut, never wanting to question her on matters of business or true friendship and Ashley’s power trips of control over her friends are not examples of healthy female friendships. They hurt to watch unfold.

And third, this novel is rife with the ‘Ugly American’ trope. Maybe it’s not a trope, strictly speaking, but I can’t abide by books about American travellers who are arrogant, demeaning, and thoughtless toward the places they visit for the sake of a juicy plot. There are far too many exclamations in this book that boil down to “wow, Mexican cops aren’t all corrupt and they even know how to dust an apartment for fingerprints! Who knew! Not me!” At one point, someone (Ashley, maybe?) remarks on how the poor people selling their wares in the streets in front of their shacks seem ‘so happy despite the poverty’ and, while I realize that’s probably meant to illustrate how deeply unhappy these three women are, it made my skin crawl.

Girls’ Night Out is very ‘plot of the moment’, it seems. Right down to the cover design, the font, and using ‘girls’ to describe female characters (who inevitably misplace one of themselves) who are very much ‘women’ instead of girls. For the sake of suspense, I suppose, the story does seem to start in the middle, leaking out tiny bits of background as the plot crawls along. Back-and-forth chapters, in both narrative perspective and timeline, make the plot hard enough to follow as it is, without having back-back scenes randomly in both present and past chapters.

Abuse is a prevalent theme in the book, so if that’s a trigger for you, take a hard pass here. Lauren is physically abused by her husband, Ashley is emotionally manipulative toward her husband and her friend/business partner, and Natalie seems fairly okay with being used and abused by everyone.

Just… no, this book was definitely not for me.

(I received a copy of Girls’ Night Out through NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

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