My interest – okay, obsession – with math is genuine, and has been since the first time I was ripped away from the life I loved. I buried myself in numbers and word problems where an answer was certain (or at least in the back of the book) and I knew I’d found something I could count on. – from The Girl She Used To Be, page 5 –
Melody Grace McCartney has been in the Witness Protection Program since the age of six, along with her parents who have since been murdered by the mob they testified against. Moved by the federal government dozens of times to small towns across America, Melody wishes for only one thing: to have a normal life and her own name. So when one night she meets Jonathon Bovaro, the son of the man who was responsible for killing her parents, she is especially vulnerable to his charms…and his promise to protect her.
And for some reason I feel free, that I have been in touch with both sides, with the light and the dark of my existence, and that I have somehow managed to find peace. Whether there is validity to this notion is irrelevant; right now, it feels valid. I’m not going to destroy it by overanalyzing. – from The Girl She Used To Be, page 48 –
David Cristofano’s debut novel is a fast-paced, compelling look at identity, and our ability to trust and love after tragedy. The Girl She Used To Be is a well-constructed novel with a complex protagonist. Melody’s journey from child victim to rebellious adolescent to independent young adult is painful. The core of the story revolves around the question of how we form our identities, and how early experiences impact our development.
I have to admit that I was not sure how I would like this novel. At times, the story felt a bit contrived – but ultimately I found myself unable to stop turning the pages. I wanted to know how Melody’s life would turn out; I wished for something better for her; I ached for those things missing in her life – a family, a person who loved her for her, a normal life. Melody is not always likable – at times she is whiny and petulant – but as the story unfolds, her behavior becomes understandable.
Cristofano has crafted an unusual novel – one of imagination and depth – which kept me interested from start to finish. Readers who like their literary fiction with a touch of mystery will greatly enjoy The Girl She Used To Be. I will look forward to reading more from this talented new author.