“This is a whole new level of hate. This is a Super Bowl stadium full of hate. This is homicidal hate.”
Alex is a High School Senior. She plays basketball for her school and loves sharing the team with her younger sister Jenny. She has a boyfriend, friends, and while her mother is a bit distant with her, her father more than makes up for it. In short, she is very content with her life.
Until everything changes with a single bullet.
At an away game, Alex asks her sister to get her a soda after the game. One trip out of a hundred made before. Jenny goes, and bad luck combined with bad timing results in her getting shot. Alex holds her baby sister in her arms while she dies.
The amount of realism in every level of this book is impressive. Guerriero’s writing is strong, and the story she tells is compelling. Take, for example, the opening scenes. They begin in the midst of a basketball game. I know nearly nothing about basketball. But my lack of knowledge didn’t matter. She didn’t complicate the writing with technical terms that would lose the reader, instead focusing on the actions and thoughts. The feel of the game rather than the play-by-play. I was Alex, so my knowledge didn’t matter. This is difficult to achieve and Guerriero pulled this off flawlessly.
This same sense of realism was done again and again. From capturing the dialogue in a way that made the slang feel real, to describing how depression and grief are all encompassing.
“I push off the bed and get moving, but it does little to help me escape the feelings buried inside me: pain and sadness–two unwanted guests that follow me everywhere I go. To the bathroom. To school. To where I’m crowded by others. Or when I’m alone. They never leave, and I desperately want them to leave. I desperately want Jenny to be alive. But she is gone. And I am here. And here hurts.”
Anyone who has ever faced depression, or crippling grief, can probably relate to this passage. I know I did. It captures the way everything hurts, and nothing helps, and how the total enormity of this is simply overwhelming.
But Girl On Point, doesn’t stop simply with Alex and her quest to heal. Instead, Guerriero takes us down a darker path. Down a path that grief can turn into. Anger. Rage. Hate.
Jenny was taken away and no one can tell them why. The police aren’t making any progress, even though the lead detective has a ‘gut feeling’ about who did it. So when her mother drags them down to the police station to harass the detective over lack of progress, again, Alex decides she needs to take things into her own hands.
Armed with private Facebook profiles on the suspects, she creates her own identity and sets out to infiltrate the group herself.
This was my favorite thing about the novel. Guerriero doesn’t make Alex into an amazing spy. Or a girl who suddenly has all the answers. We know, as the reader, that this is a bad idea. And Guerriero, as the writer, knows we know this. Alex makes mistakes. She plunges into a world she knows nothing about with very little planning or forethought. There are close calls, and flat out missteps, and Alex has to sacrifice who she was to really gain their trust. The result is, Guerriero is able to show us the tragedy in all of their lives.
“It’s strange to be celebrating and dancing with the girls I’m trying to send to prison, but I feel something I haven’t felt in a very long time. I feel alive in the world.”
This quote is one of my favorites, because it shows how confusing life can be. Alex is pretending to be someone else, with people she hates, but she actually starts to come alive being with them. And it isn’t because of getting close enough to send them prison, or solve her sister’s murder. The irony is that even pretending to be a different person, she is more herself with these girls, in this life, than she was before.
The effect of abuse and poverty isn’t overly done, and it isn’t glamorized. It is shown, again, very realistically. You can hear the noisy neighborhoods, the chaos of drinking and drugs, feel the fear of kids as they try to avoid abusive or belligerent adults. The dialogue is spot on, and gives each scene the grit and realism that these characters demand. We start to see that these girls make the only choices that make sense to them. They are simply trying to survive in a world that wouldn’t care if they died.
Alex ends up empathizing with the girls she so desperately wants to hate. And in the stunning final twist, realizes that sometimes the truth is so much more complicated than she could ever have imagined.
The only thing I wasn’t in love with was the ending. I felt that given the complexity of the story and the characters, the ending wrapped up a little too nicely and neatly, for me. That was the one piece of the novel that didn’t feel as gritty and realistic as the rest, and so it stuck out to me. I know, some people enjoy their happy endings, and it did have good messaging written in it, so it wasn’t terrible. But, I really would have liked to have seen more of the consequences, since in life, I highly doubt any of that would have happened as written.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I love books with complicated characters and difficult plot lines. I love it when the line between good and bad is blurred so much it’s hard to see where it is. And Girl On Point nails it.
Girl On Point is available now on Amazon, and is free with Kindle Unlimited. Link is below.
Thank you to the author, Cheryl Guerriero, for sending me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.