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Bright Young Women

por Jessica Knoll

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5512243,944 (3.94)24
Two women from opposite sides of the country are brought together by violent acts of the same man, and become allies and sisters in arms as they pursue the justice that would otherwise elude them in one of the most acclaimed, highly-anticipated thrillers of the year. Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll--author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis--delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer--and that he's struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation. Blisteringly paced, Bright Young Women is "Jessica Knoll at her best--an unflinching and evocative novel about the tabloid fascination with evil and the dynamic and brilliant women who have the real stories to tell" (Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me); and "a compelling, almost hypnotic read and I loved it with a passion" (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of None of This Is True).… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 22 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This was a real pleasure to read. Knoll managed to create suspense where there was none with respect to outcome (this is a real case, and we know what happened.) The suspense came with the how. How can women stay safe and be independent when the patriarchy wants us dependent and unsafe? How can mediocre white males be held accountable when by dint of their whiteness and maleness people erase their mediocrity with an agreed-upon lie that they are exceptional? How can we build a sisterhood where women support each other when everyone wants to turn every disagreement or difference of opinion into a catfight and every loving commitment to friendship into proof of sub rosa lesbianism (which is of course to be considered shameful beyond measure)? And how can women who do love one another romantically live when people consider the fact of their love destroys their credibility with respect to everything?

Here, The Defendant (Knoll does not use his name, and I won't either) murders two young women in a sorority house (he murdered many others before and after) and our guide, Pam, quickly becomes aware that she is living under a system that does not want the truth, especially from a woman. She needs to fight for anyone to listen to her though she is the only eyewitness. As she fights against a system that wants to minimize her she learns the truth about the world, sees everything more clearly, and becomes a formidable woman. The other part of the story is told by an earlier victim, Ruth, and by Ruth's loving grieving partner Tina. Tina has been fighting to put away the Defendant for years but everyone sees him as the victim and sees her as an abomination who besmirches all she touches. Pam and Tina have their work cut out for them, and in the face of barriers they get it done.

Knoll's decision to focus on the women, while still the exception, is not new. There have been a spate of books in recent years, some better than others, that have adopted the lens of the women, whether victims of crime or impacted by crime. This though is one of the best iterations I have read. In tone it reminded me of Notes on an Execution. I think that book was a bit better written than this, but this was still quite good. Sometimes this leans a little too much into "you go girl" territory for my liking, and it explicitly leans into the way the mother-child relationship screws people up. in this case Pam, Ruth, and The Defendant. It is pat and reductive and the book deserves better, but this is a minor part of the book, and it doesn't do too much damage.

I listened to this book very well narrated by the miraculous Sutton Foster (I admit to a giant girlcrush, but she really was great here) and the excellent Imani Jade Powers. I love that the narrators did not give in to a desire to overdramatize. These women were raised to be ladies, they were expected to weather things without drama, and so they did.

Oh yeah, and fuck the patriarchy. ( )
  Narshkite | May 1, 2024 |
Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read Bright Young Things immediately after
Penance
by Eliza Clark, so I was already riled up about the true crime industry. Where that novel is a more general critique that directly challenged the reader, this one is more specific in taking appart the myth and legend that law enforcement and the media created for serial murderer Ted Bundy.

He is never named, but the sad thing is his crimes and the story around him are so well known, and the subject of so many documentaries and movies, that he doesn’t need to be for anyone who’s seen a documentary to identify who The Defendant is based on.
Bright Young Women, the title a reference to be judge’s fucking outrageous comment to Bundy before sentencing him for multiple brutal murders, is recentering the story on his victims.

Sometimes I think The Defendant is just another old wives’ tale. That law enforcement backed up his self-purported claims of brilliance to cover up their own incompetence—in interviews they gave the media, in testimonies they made before the judge—and it all cemented from there, hardening into a generational truth passed down from mother to daughter. Consider this my own warning: The man was no diabolical genius. He was your run-of-the-mill incel whom I caught picking his nose in the courtroom. More than once. (Pamela)


Though the crimes and eventual trial are real, the characters and individual details are fictional.

Pamela

Pamela1 is the president of the Florida State University sorority house when a man breaks in and attacks four of her sisters. Two are killed, inlcuding her best friend, and two left with life altering injuries. We get Pamela’s perspective in the immediate aftermath, the lead up and the trial, and in 2021 after she receives a phone call that sends her back to Florida.

I liked Pamela a lot. She’s super Type A but she owns it, and because we have her perspective with over 40 years of hindsight she is also able to recognise the socialised motivations behind her younger self’s drive to be a Good Girl, and fit in society’s box, when she knows herself to be capable of much more.

I appreciate that the story and the lives of the surviving victims are not ended by The Defendant. He is a horrible thing that happened to them, but life went on afterwards and they were even happy and successful ones.

Ruth
We also have the perspective of Ruth, one of The Defendant’s earlier Lake Sammamish victims. We learn about Ruth’s life, her relationship with Tina (whom Pamela meets years later) and the circumstances that lead to her death.

While I appreciate look at the homophobia – and absolutely awful mothers – in the 70s, these chapters were the weak point. I never felt connected to Ruth. Partly I think because we already know her fate through meeting Tina, but also because Tina herself is a lot more interesting in her life both before and after Ruth! Her chapters were an annoyance to me honestly, I always wanted to get back to Pamela.

The myth
This book had me so frustrated for the victims and their familes. This myth of Bundy being some kind of charismatic genuis seems to be born of the police conjuring excuses for why they failed to catch his dumb ass, and when they did… repeatedly allowed him to escape.
His crimes were sloppy, and he did repeatedly caught on his visits to different states! It was luck more than brains that kept him free for as long as he was. His escapes were only impressive in the fact of law enforcement incompetence! He climed out an open window when he was unguarded, and he climbed up into a hole in the ceiling above his bed.

He was also not all that charming. There is anecdotal evidence out there of women he’d approached that found him creepy and turned him down. Most of his victims he attacked when they were defenceless in their sleep! The people he really charmed were the men in the media just out to sell a good story.

As Pamela points out, there are records that clearly show he was of little more than average intelligence. He was barely a law student. He got into a new law school with a very low bar for entry, and he struggled at that. The young women he murdered had gotten into better universities than him, they were the bright ones.

It’s infuriating.

This book, like Penance, has made me re-evaluate True Crime and how I have interacted with it over the years. It’s not an fun read but it’s a thoughtful and a worthy one, and it’s definitely successful in what I think Jessica Knoll set out to do, even if I would prefer to either remove Ruth’s chapters or switch her POV for Tina.

I will look out for more books by this author!

This review and more can be found on my blog.

REVIEW SUMMARY
I LIKED
- Recentering the story of an infamous serial killer where it shold be, on his victims.e
- Takes apart the Bundy myth to reveal the sad little man at the centre.
- I liked Pamela a lot.
I DIDN’T LIKE
- The Ruth sections didn’t work so well for me. They often dragged and I never felt I connected with her.



View all my reviews ( )
  ImagineAlice | Apr 27, 2024 |
Inspired (?) by the true story of an American serial killer in the 1970s who targeted young women in sorority houses. The main protagonist is the witness to some of the murders and her story alternates between present day and the 1970s.
Good character depiction and a strong sense of time and place. ( )
  Mercef | Mar 30, 2024 |
A really well-done book that deserves its Edgar nomination.
The brilliant serial-killer is bad enough in genre fiction, but when it seeps into media coverage of actual real life crimes. It is appalling.
The author alternates between the narrative of a victim and that of a survivor, giving some flesh and blood to the victims, the ones whose names no one remembers, while everyone knows “the defendant.”
There is a sub-plot regarding family treatment of a lesbian character that is also moving.
The author is trying to right many wrongs at once, and doing a pretty remarkable job at it ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
I listened to this book and really enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed it more when I realized it was based on Ted Bundy. I just ordered a physical copy of this book because I want to reread it. But I just love how this book was done and how it was all about the survivors and they never one mention his name, but rather call him "The Defendant" It bounces back and forth between two POVs and a few times I got a little confused and had to check to see if it was from Ruth's perspective or Pamela. The fact that this takes place in the 70s is also interesting and how the times have changed - hopefully. How Ruth's mom acted was just terrible. This would be a great book to annotate and actually research to see what is true and what is fiction. It's one of those books I enjoyed while I was listening to it, but I did think about it afterwards and looked it up and almost made me like it more after. I'm sure I'll have a second review once I read the physical book and deep dive into this a bit. I may wait till next year when the audiobook isn't so fresh. ( )
  Mav-n-Libby | Feb 19, 2024 |
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Pamela
Montclair, New Jersey
Day 15,825

You may not remember me, but I have never forgotten you, begins the letter written in the kind of cursive they don't teach in schools anymore. I read the sentence twice in stinging astonishment. It's been forty-three years since my brush with the man even the most reputable papers call the All-American Sex Killer, and my name has long since fallen to a footnote in the story.
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Two women from opposite sides of the country are brought together by violent acts of the same man, and become allies and sisters in arms as they pursue the justice that would otherwise elude them in one of the most acclaimed, highly-anticipated thrillers of the year. Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll--author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis--delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer--and that he's struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation. Blisteringly paced, Bright Young Women is "Jessica Knoll at her best--an unflinching and evocative novel about the tabloid fascination with evil and the dynamic and brilliant women who have the real stories to tell" (Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me); and "a compelling, almost hypnotic read and I loved it with a passion" (Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author of None of This Is True).

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