24 April 2009

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Flap Copy from ARC:"When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence and ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others - everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself.

So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another new town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the Mafioso sent to hunt her down, knows her - the real her - and it's a dangerous thrill that Melody can't resist. He insists that she's just a pawn in the government's war against the Bovaro family. But can she trust her life and her identity to this vicious stranger whose acts of violence are legendary?"

This unusual glimpse into the Witness Protection Program was interesting and engagingly written, though I had some problems with its fundamental plot devices. The story grabbed me from the very beginning, with clever dialogue and quick surprises that kept me turning the pages. Melody was a well-written and quite loveable narrator -- Cristofano is to be highly commended for his ability truly to capture a woman's voice in such emotional and intelligent detail.

And yet, for all the highlights this novel held, I was ultimately disappointed. Other reviews seem to view the ending as realistic and honest - I, on the other hand, felt it was wildly unrealistic and also unsatisfying. Not that I expect a book to end with every character's problems solved and the story wrapped up - on the contrary, I much prefer novels whose characters suffer real problems with real, not-so-sexy solutions. But Melody and Jonathan were tortured yet false - I just didn't buy it, at the end of the day I guess I just didn't buy it. I was rooting for Melody, I thought Cristofano perfectly captured her uncertainty, the confused psyche that might allow her to have romantic feelings for her would-be assassin -- the romantic elements of the story was not my problem. But I finished reading and felt let-down, felt almost angry at the cop-out ending.

I give this book 3.5 stars -- it was thoroughly enjoyable and Cristofano is definitely an author to watch - I just wanted more from this particular book!

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