... feels timely ... Such a premise could be ponderous and pretentious but isn’t at all, because there’s murder: this is a very good plot-driven thriller dressed in a glittery jumpsuit. The story is multilayered, touching on sex, female friendship, queerness, Berlin nightlife, drugs, celebrity culture and art in ways that in less confident hands could easily have become a mess ... Instead, there’s an exuberance to this novel that makes it highly lovable ... very funny ... there are laugh-out-loud lines throughout, and Henkel’s turn of phrase adds beauty to the mundane ... With so much going on, the murder strand of the plot could end up as little more than corsetry, but instead it keeps you hooked, keeping the novel’s more profound questions about the intersection of art and life, and the cannibalisation of human experience for fiction, from becoming pompous. It’s a whirlwind that leaves you slightly hungover, with the lingering feeling that Henkel has pulled off something very clever, while making it look easy. Which it isn’t, at all.
... the most fun novel I’ve read this year ... Told at the breathless pace of gossip, full of delicious details as though shared over a bottle of wine with a best friend au fait with both high and low culture ... As things spiral out of control, the reader starts to wonder who, exactly, is holding the reins. I kept reading late into the night to find out, enjoying every moment.
This is Zoe’s story, even if Hailey is the one with her foot on the gas and her unsteady hand on the wheel. Henkel is at her best digging into Zoe’s quest to establish her artistic identity as well as her sexual one. While she might follow Hailey’s lead, she is on a journey of her own, navigating queerness and grief while contending with a world that doesn’t really care about how you feel, only about how cool you are. Henkel knows that it is when you are struggling to define yourself that you are most vulnerable to the predations of others ... Zoe’s Berlin is summoned in exciting and visceral detail. Henkel deploys a spectacular range of senses from the gaudy sight of costumes at a theater sale to the sweaty, orgiastic tangle on the dance floor of a sex club, the damp chill of everything to the grinding headache in the aftermath of too much cut-rate booze. The grungy student life feels all too real ... Secondary characters come and go at a remove — never quite coming into focus, which may be intentional. The effect is much like scrolling through Facebook, linking a face to a few scattershot details, which is an interesting and accurate way to reflect on those transitory acquaintances from your very early 20s, people who pass through but don’t stick ... The truly monstrous delights of Other People’s Clothes come from Zoe and Hailey’s twisted friendship and Hailey’s mantra that 'art is what you can get away with'...Megan Abbott, the queen of toxic female entanglements, has proved that there’s enough rancid meat on the bones of friendships such as Zoe and Hailey’s to make additional drama seem like overkill. And this is where Other People’s Clothes begins to falter ... The last quarter of the book is jammed with a cascade of violence, hairpin twists and wild revelations that land with the mock gravitas of a Law & Order episode. The effect, I imagine, is like something out of one of Beatrice Becks’s airport novels, which is a shame because up until that moment Henkel’s own book was so much more. I found myself wishing that Henkel had delivered a story worthy of the real Amanda Knox instead of her tabloid counterpart.
... sharply observed and very funny ... a worthy addition to the growing canon of outsider writing ... Henkel has an exacting eye for subtle situational humour, and she excels at describing the sorts of characters one encounters in the German capital ... As the story unfolds into a coming-of-age murder mystery with a highbrow spin, Calla Henkel cleverly manipulates expectations to build tension until the very end. In so doing, she avoids a pitfall common to many first novelists (and indeed, many ex-pats in Berlin): forgetting to develop a plot until the story is half over.
The novel lives up to its billing as a dark, compelling story about two girls whose lives are derailed after renting an apartment in Berlin from an eccentric crime writer ... Henkel paints an unforgettable picture of the city through the eyes of an impressionable exchange student ... The descriptions feel real and grounded in experience ... This is unfortunately where the book begins to break down. There are time-looping, labyrinthine subplots ... these references are meant to be ironic, but cumulatively the mentions feel unearned, tokenistic and therefore exploitative ... With all the busy subplots, too many things lack depth – Zoe’s bulimia, her friend’s murder, her relationship with ex-boyfriend Jesse, her emerging bisexuality. And that’s before we even get to Hailey’s diary, or the novel she has apparently been writing in her spare time in between all the partying. Even the book’s framework, which sees Zoe tell her story to a psychiatrist, is largely dispensed with until the final, tumultuous end ... Henkel has smart things to say on narrative ownership and perspective, and how ultimately we are all just minor bit parts in other people’s dramas. It is these insights that remain in the memory when the lights go down on the rest of the theatrics.
Henkel masterfully brings every inch of Hailey and Zoe’s world to life with her live-wire prose...But what truly pushes the plot forward is the obsessive, psychologically damaging friendship between Zoe and Hailey, which slowly leads them from a cocoon of insulated partying to a state of real danger: a finely negotiated shift. Though the book’s middle grows a little long and unwieldy, its specter of mystery is tantalizing and will keep readers captive till the final page ... Absorbing and electric.
... engrossing ... The antics grow increasingly outlandish, but Henkel shines with her wry, well-observed portrait of the artist. In the end, this offers an intelligent dissection of the insatiable appetite for dead girl stories.