Title: All These Beautiful People
Author: Elizabeth Klehfoth
Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
(Digital ARC graciously provided by publisher via Edelweiss)
Secrets from both the past and present collide to reveal a terrible truth in this suspenseful debut from Elizabeth Klehfoth.
In the last day of summer, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Allister Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.
Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.
Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.
As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.
All These Beautiful Strangers is a compulsive read sure to make you keep turning the pages.
With three point-of-view characters, Klehfoth weaves a comprehensive story spanning almost three decades. Grace and Allistair’s chapters take readers back to the start of their stories, giving just enough clues to tease. I certainly enjoyed reading both their POVs. Reading their chapters definitely gave me more insight and allowed me to know their characters better. Nevertheless, no matter how interesting their parts were, it is still Charlie, daughter, who is the center of this story.
Charlie is a complicated character and her development is one of the things I liked best in this novel. I disliked her at first, but she grew on me. Acerbic and too full of herself at the start of the story, Charlie becomes more self-aware as the book progresses, unraveling what she knows about herself and her family as she detangles clues and details about her mother’s disappearance.
I gave myself a couple of days after finishing this book before writing my review. It’s a hefty one (500+ pages!) but I enjoyed it so much that I just glided my way through it. Great as that sounds though, All These Beautiful Strangers still has flaws.
Charlie is the story’s main mover, and she’ an effective one. Even though she is a conflicted character, Charlie is still likable and she made me care about what happens to her. Add this to combined elements of Gossip Girl, The Secret History and Cruel Intentions, and you have the makings of a really interesting plot. Klehfoth failed to capitalize on it however. The way she was written, Charlie relied too heavily on coincidences, stumbling on clues rather than actually discovering them herself. It’s a plot fail. Instead of moving the story organically, it only forced events to happen more often than not.
Still, Klehfoth’s writing shines through her flawed plotting. Descriptive and sharp in turns, she knows how to create a clear picture for her readers through her words. Her main characters are well developed with their own distinct voices and nuances. The story is very easy to read and follow even as it goes back and forth in time. It might have moved a bit slow during the first part of the book, but the pace speeds up as the mystery unfolds and drama escalates. The ending is an emotional one, but fitting though, it felt a bit rushed.
Despite its flaws, I still recommend All These Beautiful Strangers to readers who love suspense and mystery. While adults may enjoy this engrossing read, I see this appealing more to older teens. This debut is a great introduction for Elizabeth Klehfoth, already this book has been optioned for a small screen adaptation by the same producers behind HBO’s Big Little Lies. I am definitely looking forward to reading more books from her.