Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

“You can’t outrun what’s inside of you. You can only acknowledge it, work around it, try and turn it into something better. I may not know exactly where I’m headed, but this time I’m choosing my own destiny.”

Published in 2017, The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel follows fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke who goes to live with her grandparents and 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 Roanoke Girls has been sitting on my shelf since it was a hit on bookstagram a few years ago now. But knowing nothing about it, I had little desire to pick it up, which is why it was on my 23 in 2023 list this year. And now I wish I hadn’t let it gather dust at the back for so long, as it was an absolute gem.

I knew little of the plot beforehand, but things are hinted at early on so you do have some ideas about what’s going on, while the mystery remains strong throughout. But it’s not revealed in full until the very end. And when the truth comes out, it hits hard.

The story focuses on a really unsettling subject matter, but I won’t say any more than that. It’s dark, uncomfortable, and disturbing, but immensely compelling at the same time and it absolutely broke me.

This is definitely a book that will divide readers. Some will purely see it as messed up. Others will find power in its ability to crush your soul with its brutality. Personally, I think Engel handles the subject brilliantly. It’s often not a very comfortable read, but the rawness blew me away.

It would be wrong to say that I enjoyed this book because it was tough to get through at times, but it really left a mark on me and I felt so engaged with the main characters, despite their many flaws. I thoroughly recommend it if you like books that tackle difficult subjects in a fresh, honest and impacting way.


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