A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Cover image of the book "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder."

Credits

Readability Age Range

Publisher

Awards

Year Published

Book Review

In A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, a mystery is afoot. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was killed by her boyfriend. The case is closed, and everyone is sure that’s exactly what happened. But Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. And for her senior capstone project, she’s determined to uncover the truth!

Plot Summary

Pippa Fitz-Amobi has always been known as a hard-working, straight-A student, whose only flaw is that she’s kind of a borderline perfectionist. So when she decided to revisit a local murder as the centerpiece of her senior capstone project—which is Fairview High School’s version of a senior thesis—everyone was a bit surprised.

Why would she want to dig into such an uncomfortable and disturbing topic? The murder happened five years ago. And everyone knows it’s an open and shut case: An innocent and well-liked schoolgirl named Andie Bell was killed by her boyfriend Sal Singh. He even admitted his guilt before taking his own life.

The school officials don’t like the idea one bit. But … Pip being Pip, they allow it. Especially since she promises to focus more on how the media shaped the investigation. That angle could have some merit.

What no one realizes, however, is that Pip isn’t focusing on the media at all. She knew Sal back when she was just a little girl. He’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. And she just never believed he was the stone-cold killer that everyone thought he was. Not only that, but she’s hated how the community treated Sal’s family after the case was closed. Besides, there were just too many loose ends to the investigation, in Pip’s opinion. Too many things that seem a bit off.

As Pip starts gathering the details—digging into police reports, interviewing Sal and Andie’s friends and organizing all the bits and pieces—one thing starts to become clear: No one in this case is exactly who they seem to be. And though Pip never believed that she could rush in and solve a murder better than the pros, she starts to think that her investigation might raise enough questions to at least suggest that Sal wasn’t who everyone thought he was.

There’s only one problem. If Pip is right, if Sal isn’t a killer, then there’s likely someone else still in town who is! And that particular person won’t be very happy if one Pippa Fitz-Amobi starts uncovering secrets that they want to stay hidden.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

Pip and some of her friends go camping together at the end of summer break and they bring a Ouija board along for some creepy “fun.” Some express their lack of comfort in “talking to the spirits of the dead.” And thanks to other events, they never get around to using the board.

Authority Roles

Pip’s parents are completely supportive of her. They correct her when they think she’s straying out of line or overextending herself, but they’re always encouraging her to learn, grow and reach for more. And that’s at least part of what makes her the determined young woman that she is. But other parents in this tale are far less supportive. One father is actually somewhat abusive. Another, hides secrets and, though he ultimately tries to do what he thinks is right, makes selfish choices that quite literally destroy lives.

Some adults know that teens are drinking at parties and accept that as part of the growing up process.

A local policeman takes self-serving action that corrupts an investigation.

Profanity & Violence

There are several f- and s-words in the dialogue, along with other profanities. Teens tend to use some pretty foul language on the whole.

Pip is investigating a murder. And though there’s nothing overly graphic in what she uncovers, the details of a supposed suicide are laid out. Teen Pip is also threatened a number of times by an unknown person (potentially an adult) who leaves notes and sends messages. Someone is held captive. And several scenes contain physical threats and peril. We hear about a girl who self-harms after something terrible happened to her.

High school kids do a lot of partying and drinking here. That partying is presented as a pretty common thing, especially for the high school seniors. And though Pip doesn’t participate in that scene, except for purposes of her investigation, some of her friends do.

Pip also uncovers a high schooler who sells marijuana and some prescription drugs. And one guy uses those drugs to sexually assault teen girls at the parties. Pip even traces those drugs back to their source. Some kids smoke cigarettes.

Sexual Content

Pip’s best friend, Cara, is gay. And though we don’t see her getting romantically involved, we do hear about her attractions. Several other high schoolers are far less reserved. We hear of several different people drunkenly making out and are told of a couple moving in together who expect a baby.

Again, there are never any detailed descriptions, but a lot of sexual content is talked about during Pip’s investigation. For instance, we hear of one girl who’s drugged at a party and apparently raped. She asks a friend to help her track down a “morning-after pill” the following day. Someone is tricked into sexting a topless photo. We hear of a teen having an affair with an adult man. A guy is caught with a fully nude photo of a teen. And one of Pip’s friend’s father is said to have done a nude photo shoot in his youth.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for other books at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

What do you think this story is saying about family? Were the parents here too involved in their teen’s lives, or not involved enough? Are there teen choices in this story that are similar to some you’ve seen in your school or among your friends? What good or bad impact do you think they have?

What did you like most about Pip’s choices? Did she cross some lines that you think she shouldn’t have? How would you have handled those situations? What is this book saying about friendship and people who come from different backgrounds?

What did you like most about this book?

Additional Comments

This is a well-written book about a bright teen girl who uses her wits and intelligence to slowly peel back the onion layers of a mystery. However, the story is also marred by a lot of content that parents of teen readers, and teens themselves, should take into consideration.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email