Amy Engel: The Roanoke Girls


I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl.

But you won’t when you know the truth.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.

But what she doesn’t know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice…

The Roanoake Girls follows the lives of Lane and Allegra Roanoke through the perspective of Lane. Lane doesn’t know much about her family, she doesn’t even know who her father is but, when her mother commits suicide leaving Lane without anyone to take care of her, her grandparents step in moving her out to Roanoke in Kansas. As Lane spends a summer with the Roanoke’s, she begins to understand why it is that the Roanoke Girls run, or die. There is a dark secret settling over this family, one that she must fight against so that she does not repeat what those before her have done.

Now, I’m sure a lot of readers who pick up this book are going to think: Hmm, Roanoke? American Horror Story? NO! Just no! That was definitely a pull for me when I asked for a copy of this book to review. This novel is nothing like the dark and disturbing events of the American Horror Story episodes. Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls is dark and disturbing in an altogether different manner…

Coming to write this review, I find it so hard to make comments without spoiling the secret of the Roanoke family. In the beginning, there is no true understanding of why these girls have left or why Lane’s mother committed suicide. But, as Lane begins to enjoy the rich and luxurious lifestyle that her grandparents can provide for her, she notices subtle hints from those around her that get you to thinking what this secret could be. It is a mystery in the sense that no-one, other than this family, is privy to the events taking place. I cottoned on pretty quickly to what was happening, but this secret isn’t truly revealed until around halfway through the book leading you to almost question those hints and gestures that you’d read throughout. Engel does this really well with that subtlety which adds to this novels messed up disturbing events. You’re constantly expecting Lane to become entangled in these web of lies, that at any moment she won’t be able to leave, that she’ll be stuck like those before her.

Our main characters are Lane and Allegra, as mentioned. With the novel being told from Lane’s perspective, there is a feeling that you understand the character of Allegra more. As you begin to understand what is happening, you can see the pull that is placed on Allegra and how entangled she has become. You truly get to understand the personality and the reasons behind her actions as Lane studies her. So much so that, when I had finished the book and I was thinking about what I had just read, I could remember the character of Allegra more clearly than Lane. Allegra has such a strong personality and such a major part to play in the Roanoke girls secret and within Lane’s own life, that she might as well be the main protagonist. Lane herself is entirely different to Allegra. When she first comes to Roanoke, you can see the clear differences between them; Allegra is very loud and out there in personality and appearances, wearing short shorts and low-cut tank tops to accentuate everything she has to offer, whilst Lane (though almost identical in appearance) chooses to wear t-shirts and cover herself up. As to be expected, a summer spent with Allegra develops Lane as a character; she starts to dress more like Allegra and gains some aspects of her personality.

The Roanoke Girls is a novel worth buying. It is gripping in its events and the characters involved, messed up and somewhat disturbing. The characters are understandable and all too human. Towards the end of the novel when everything is clarified, you begin to understand why this secret has been protected and why the girls either ran, or died. Lane herself provides an all-too understandable explanation which almost brought tears to my eyes as I began to understand all those girls before them and why Lane’s mother herself chose to end her own life. In this respect, it is also a sad novel in that the events repeated themselves in every generation.


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