ARC Review: They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

Title: They’ll Never Catch Us
Author: Jessica Goodman
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: ★★★

Thank you to Razorbill for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis

Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.

The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong–she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted.

With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.


Review

They’ll Never Catch Us is marketed as this murder mystery/thriller and if you go into it with that mindset you’ll be disappointed. The murder doesn’t even happen until around the halfway point, but after that it is definitely a mystery. Who has motive to kill a track star on the radar of many college scouts? When you’re a girl from Edgewater whose only way out is track, the answer is too many.

The story could have gone down a lot of different ways, more interesting ways. I would’ve liked to have explored the cold cases more, have it been the true murder mystery I wanted. The sisters coming together to solve the crimes. Instead it decided to take the route of a small dead end town where people will do anything to get out. Think Panic but less high stakes games.

The town of Edgewater is known for two things; the mysterious cold cases and their all star female track team. I do have to say I liked the picture that the author painted about the discrimination girls face. Don’t take up space, stand out but not too much and be cutthroat. That was something that was explored quite a bit along with how the boys in this town were unaffected. Sexism at its finest.

Stella was intense go say the least but she’s been through some s**t. She’s tough as nails and is covered in barbed wire, but she has to be to fight to get out of this town. Yes she’s overtly competitive but the world of college athletics is cutthroat. Ellie on the other hand seemed like a less intense version of her sister. Sweet, kind and a little needy. She survived on natural talent alone and I got where Stella was coming from sometimes. Ellie didn’t have to try hard everything just was with her. It would’ve drove me nuts too.

Stella and Ellie had this sister dynamic that was intense to say the least. I remember reading the first chapter and being like “wow how can someone hate their sister THAT much?” That’s just not the case though. They loved each other fiercely but were also each other’s greatest competitors. The sister would do anything to protect each other but could come to literally blows between each other. Typical sister stuff. I loved their relationship and watching it mend throughout the book. It was probably the highlight of the book for me.

While I still enjoyed this book, I was slightly disappointed. The writing was well done and the world perfectly curated, just not what I was expecting. If you’re okay with exploring sexism and small town dynamics with a bit of a mystery though, it’s still worth checking out.

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