Four Stars! Thanks to NetGalley, I received a copy of Carla Buckley’s The Good Goodbye, which might actually be a YA novel. If it isn’t, my vote is that it should be…doesn’t mean it won’t be read/enjoyed by adults, but I think YA readers would REALLY like it.

Part of that is due to the main characters around whom the story swirls: Rory and Arden. These two young women are cousins who have always been inseparable and apparently almost identical. They have gone away to college together, even becoming roommates. The weird and almost sad thing is they end up attending a college that wasn’t anywhere either one of them had any desire to attend – but a serious financial crisis in their shared families has meant that Rory isn’t able to go to an elite university (a lifelong dream) and Arden can’t escape to the left coast to attend art school.

After the first 6 weeks of the freshman year, there is a fire in their dorm, leaving a close friend dead and both of them unconscious in the ER. The two sets of parents deal with the shock and gradually evolving drama that leads to a police investigation.

The “perfect” cousin Rory (bound for the elite university) is somewhat a princess, with an outward appearance of social ease and popularity. Her artsy cousin Arden is quite insecure and lives in Rory’s shadow. The novel unfolds in alternating chapters and reveals their shared history gradually. Arden’s mom (Natalie) is in total denial about whether her child could be anything other than perfect, and we come to learn more and more about the family dramas that have bound these people together (and threaten to completely rip them apart).

Rory, the princess, is gradually revealed to be incredibly manipulative and deceitful, living in terror of being revealed as anything less than perfect. As the past comes into focus, we see the two families both supporting and destroying their extended bonds…an aspect that I found really well done.
We come to learn how the fire started as we learn about the fate of the family members individually and in relationship with each other. As one reviewer put it, “Love and disdain are two sides of the same coin and … that was portrayed here quite well. “

It totally help my interest, and while I had an “oh no!” moment near the end, I did like it a lot. In some ways Carla Buckley’s writing reminds me of Jodi Picoult – fans of Jodi’s will appreciate this one, and I will look for future books by Ms. Buckley!