Author: Jessica Knoll
Published by: Simon and Schuster on Sep. 19, 2023
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada
Book Rating: 9/10
An extraordinary novel inspired by the real-life sorority targeted by America’s first celebrity serial killer in his final murderous spree.
January 1978. A serial killer has terrorized women across the Pacific Northwest, but his existence couldn’t be further from the minds of the vibrant young women at the top sorority on Florida State University’s campus in Tallahassee. Tonight is a night of promise, excitement, and desire, but Pamela Schumacher, president of the sorority, makes the unpopular decision to stay home—a decision that unwittingly saves her life. Startled awake at 3 a.m. by a strange sound, she makes the fateful decision to investigate. What she finds behind the door is a scene of implausible violence—two of her sisters dead; two others, maimed. Over the next few days, Pamela is thrust into a terrifying mystery inspired by the crime that’s captivated public interest for more than four decades.
On the other side of the country, Tina Cannon has found peace in Seattle after years of hardship. A chance encounter brings twenty-five-year-old Ruth Wachowsky into her life, a young woman with painful secrets of her own, and the two form an instant connection. When Ruth goes missing from Lake Sammamish State Park in broad daylight, surrounded by thousands of beachgoers on a beautiful summer day, Tina devotes herself to finding out what happened to her. When she hears about the tragedy in Tallahassee, she knows it’s the man the papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer. Determined to make him answer for what he did to Ruth, she travels to Florida on a collision course with Pamela—and one last impending tragedy.
Bright Young Women is the story about two women from opposite sides of the country who become sisters in their fervent pursuit of the truth. It proposes a new narrative inspired by evidence that’s been glossed over for decades in favor of more salable headlines—that the so-called brilliant and charismatic serial killer from Seattle was far more average than the countless books, movies, and primetime specials have led us to believe, and that it was the women whose lives he cut short who were the exceptional ones.
Unsettling, insightful, and intricate!
Bright Young Women is a compelling, disturbing thriller that takes us into the lives of two main characters. Pamela Schumacher, a sorority president at Florida State University, who after being awoken by a disturbance at 3 a.m. on the night of January 15, 1978, becomes an eyewitness to a horrific crime that leaves two of her sisters dead and two brutally beaten, and Ruth Wachowsky, a young woman who is struggling with familial drama and secrets who never returns home one day in 1974, and whose girlfriend fights tirelessly over the years to prove was an earlier victim of the same killer.
The writing is brisk and sharp. The characters are tormented, vulnerable, and scarred. And the plot, told from alternating POVs and using a back-and-forth style, is an eerie tale of life, loss, tragedy, grief, injustice, depravity, misogyny, rage, strong emotions, negligence, sensationalism, violence, and murder.
Overall, Bright Young Women is a taut, tense, gripping tale inspired by real-life events that packs a real punch and is a spine-chilling reminder of what’s really important to remember when it comes to serial killers and that’s not the killers themselves but their victims, the ones whose lives they took, the ones whose lives they shattered, and the ones whose lives they have irrevocably changed and will haunt forever.
This novel is available now.
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.