April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford. Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead. Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah's world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April's death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide . . . including a murder.
One challenge with a then-and-now chronicle is making both halves equally interesting. Ms. Ware succeeds nobly at this ... Ms. Ware’s stories are often compared to Agatha Christie’s, but in mood she’s closer to Daphne du Maurier or Francis Iles ... Through careful descriptive scrutiny of Hannah’s emotional barometer, Ms. Ware makes even her heroine’s most misguided decisions seem plausible. The It Girl may well be her best book yet.
The mystery at the heart of The It Girl is as propulsive as any of her other stories, thanks to Ware’s deft use of two alternating timelines to both push the narrative forward and flesh out the life of the dead girl at its center. The constantly shifting time periods...are inextricably intertwined in such a way that they build organically toward a dramatic and explosive final confrontation ... Its central mystery may not be as complicated as some of Ware’s other efforts, the realistic character work, and compulsively readable prose will be enough to draw anyone into the story and keep them there ... While Hannah, Will, and the other characters are certainly left haunted both by the hole April’s death punched in their lives and the media frenzy that followed them for years afterward, the story isn’t great at showing us what she truly meant to any of them in life ... Ware is particularly talented at making it seem as though virtually any character we meet at any point in the story could be a suspect ... But the story isn’t a breathless page-turner like some of the author’s other work. Instead, The It Girl deftly delves into the lingering effects of trauma and survivors’ guilt, showing us the ways that one girl’s death forever has forever changed those who knew her.
Unlike some other popular authors, Ware hasn’t found a groove and stayed in it. Her readers never know quite what they’ll get next ... With its back-and-forth, The It Girl has some trouble building momentum. Hannah’s behavior seems increasingly unhinged, to the point of endangering her pregnancy over and over. The climax is exciting and well engineered, but overall the book seems maybe 100 pages too long ... Readers who can’t get enough of Ruth Ware, though, will find plenty to like here.