Review: “They Wish They Were Us” by Jessica Goodman

God I love the purples!

Now this is a book that you go into expecting a pretty straight-forward One Thing, and then come out of it with a Completely Different Thing.

It was both a pro and a con, in my humble opinion. 

Slated as Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying, They Wish They Were Us follows the lives of the Long Island elite, through the eyes of Jill Newman. Jill is a member of “The Players,” the top of the social hierarchy at her boarding/prep school. The Players are beautiful, wealthy, and connected, but beneath their golden veneer lies tragedy; one of their members, Shaila, was murdered years ago and it’s beginning to look more and more like the person they all thought was the killer, very well may not have been. Chaos ensues. 

I came into this book expecting a murder mystery against the backdrop of the uber wealthy and entitled teenagers of Long Island. And the book turned out to be more about the drama of the uber wealthy teenagers, with a good subplot of murder. 

It was a good thing because the characters were interesting. Goodman sets you up to think they are little more than shallow creatures at the start of the novel, but slowly, very slowly, she peels back little layers and makes pointed references that allow the readers to show just how messed up these teens are. And how messed up everything they worked hard for to be in The Player’s was to achieve. (Hazing rituals are abound in order to achieve Top Dog Status, it seems.)

Jill is a decent protagonist. She’s smart, even if she does rely on the facade of being a wealthy, bitchy Player a little too heavily to hide her scholarship status. She genuinely misses Shaila, but you do see both the good of her best friend and the bad, through Jill’s eyes. 

Wealth, privilege, ambition– it’s all explored her in this novel in the extremes. To be a Player is a lifelong sentence. And that’s something that is played into in depth. 

What I am disappointed in, however, is that I came into this book expecting there to be a heavy mystery to solve. And I was let down. The murder plot is very muched pushed to the back to the novel. The twists in the murder plot were well done, but there just wasn’t enough of an emphasis on what really happened the night Shaila died throughout the whole book.

However, this book most certainly lives up to its Gossip Girl predecessor. This book is about the lengths people will go to maintain the status of the adored. And it’s certainly worth a pickup if you’re looking to lose yourself in that lifestyle for a while. 

3.5/5

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