By far the biggest let down of 2022 so far.
I started reading Darling Girl in May (2022) when I received it in my Book of the Month box and sadly by the time August (2022) rolled around, I found myself STILL stuck on it. I know I’m a slow reader but that was too much even for me.
Usually when I finish a book I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Especially when it comes to books I struggled to get through and this one definitely qualifies as such.
So after forcing myself to finish it because I was already more than halfway through it, I felt absolutely nothing when I was finally done. The ending is so increadibly lackluster that even now it doesn’t feel like I finished it and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that with any other book before.
Ever since a tragic car accident left her widowed and a single mother Holly Darling has been attempting to leave her past behind. Her sole focus is her son Jack, the only other survivor of the crash, and her cosmetics company. That is until she gets the call; Eden, her daughter that no one knows exists and who has been comatose since a young age, has gone missing.
Holly doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, she desperately wants to believe that this is tied to her family’s fame but she knows the truth is a lot more simple. Peter Pan is back and he is after her daughter, their daughter.
Now, to avoid coming across as just bashing the book, I’m going to stick to three major problems that overall ruined my reading experience.
First, and perhaps my biggest issue with Darling Girl is the lack of action.
This is a book where you constantly feel like so much is happening while simultaneously feeling like the story hasn’t moved forward at all. Holly is not a character of much action. She makes phone calls and meet’s with people, which is not exciting. While I understand how “real world” this is, it is boring to read (especially for a fantasy).
At thirty-something-years-old I don’t expect Holly to don war makeup and personally go after Peter Pan (or I don’t know maybe I do) but I really wish she would do more than call for help, cry, meet with people she hired and talk with her mother about everything going wrong in her life over tea. Her age should not have been a limiting factor to what she can do, I mean her mom is older and even she seemed to do more.
And yes, in part it’s her age, but really her point of view (POV) is the least interesting of all the characters. Least interesting and most limited. Holly is the mother, and she does what a mother is expected to do and that’s it. In retrospect, I would have liked the book to be told either from multiple POV’s that also included Holly’s or even just one POV that wasn’t Holly.
Second, talk about TELLING and NOT SHOWING.
We’ve all heard of this rule, I think. It’s understandable that sometimes a story can get away from you, maybe your mind is just working faster than you can type some days, but with Darling Girl it just gets progressively worse.
By the time you reach the climax, the author has stopped trying to show you what is happening and has devolved to just telling you. The entire conclusion is two of the characters telling Holly what happened because she was conveniently unconscious the whole time the “epic” battle went down.
To me, that was just lazy. It was almost as if the author did not know how to write an action scene and was just like, how do I tip-toe around writing one throughout the whole book.
My third and last reason ties in with the second.
Because so much of the end was the author merely telling the reader what happened, the ending felt rushed.
It was like one minute Holly is just trying to stop her angsty teenage son from playing lacrosse and the next minute she is desperately searching for him all the while knowing who took him already.
It is also funny, funny to me anyway, that Holly contacts the Hook character so that he can help her find her son. Hook agrees, so Holly then prompts him to be extra careful because the person he is up against is extremely dangerous. Here’s the funny part, Hook makes this whole speech about being dangerous and unpredictable himself. Holly then watches him disappear into the night, his hook gleaming in the moonlight… and then Hook is just completely irrelevant to the events that happen directly after. So the buildup was for nothing.
I don’t know but that to me just seemed like an idea cut short by a looming deadline.
I really thought that by the time I finished Darling Girl, I would feel differently about it. At least different than how I was feeling halfway through the book. I mean, I usually do. Like I can read a book that is a little on the slow side, complain about everything and anything, then the moment I finish it, I regret not having tried to finish it sooner.
The most positive thing that I can say about Darling Girl, is that the ending ending was actually kind of heartwarming. Like in the aftermath of everything, the characters are left in a good place.
And, if you happen to like the book – unlike me – there are some questions left unanswered that leave it open enough for there to be a sequel.
I give Darling Girl 1 star. I want to say that at a certain point, maybe 75 percent through, it was still ranking at about 3 stars for me (which is average). But the ending is what ruins it for me. This book was marketed as a “Dark” retelling, but I don’t know if I would even consider it that.
I’m sorry to say but I would not recommend this book.