The Girl in the Park

The Girl in the Park

3.8 10
by Mariah Fredericks
     
 

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When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to… See more details below

Overview

When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick's mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Wendy Geller had the reputation of being a wild party girl at her elite private school, but Rain knows that her best friend wanted to fit in and to be popular. She also knows that Wendy earned a lot of enemies by going after popular girls' boyfriends. When the teen turns up dead after a party, Rain is determined to find out what happened. She is also an outcast; the other kids make fun of her speech difficulties due to a cleft palate. But in order to find the murderer, she has to force herself out of the background. Talking to some of the in crowd gives her a new perspective on her classmates, and her search leads her to several suspects. When she discovers the true killer, it nearly tears the school apart. Rain finds her voice and realizes she must speak out for her friend who can no longer speak for herself. The story starts off slowly, gradually building to a surprise ending. Rather than a heavy-handed explanation of Rain's cleft palate, details are sprinkled throughout the story, building readers' understanding of her communication difficulties and readers' compassion for her.—Diana Pierce, Leander High School, TX
Publishers Weekly
Fredericks’s haunting psychological thriller is filtered through the watchful eyes of high school student Rain, as she looks into the death of her classmate Wendy, who is found murdered in Central Park the night after a party. Both outsiders, Rain and Wendy used to be close, but by their junior year they have grown apart. Rain, self-conscious about a speech impediment that is the result of a cleft palate, is a reticent observer of life, while Wendy is, on the surface, an attention-seeking, relationship-wrecking party girl from Long Island. Devastated by Wendy’s death and protective of the late teenager’s reputation, which is being trashed in the tabloids and at school, Rain fishes around for information, putting herself at risk. Fredericks’s mystery unfolds gracefully, revealing the rich inner life that Rain is so reluctant to share, as well as a complex portrait of Wendy, the kind of girl people “love to hate.” Rain’s voice provides an authentic portrait of grief and powerlessness, while Fredericks (Crunch Time) offers profound, provocative commentary on what it means to grow up in the age of Facebook. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 20, 2012:
“Rain’s voice provides an authentic portrait of grief and powerlessness, while Fredericks (Crunch Time) offers profound, provocative commentary on what it means to grow up in the age of Facebook.”

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012:
"[B]oth Rain and Wendy emerge as fully rounded, flawed characters that teens will recognize and connect with. A satisfying whodunit with enough clues and red herrings to keep mystery fans happy."

Booklist, April 1, 2012:
"Fredericks has constructed a taut, suspenseful mystery with convincing characters whose actions and motives propel the plot. Rain is an unusual, compelling protagonist, a watcher who must step reluctantly out of her comfort zone. Observant readers...will find as much satisfaction in observing Rain’s personal growth as in the solving of the intriguing mystery."

School Library Journal, May 2012:
"The story starts off slowly, gradually building to a surprise ending. Rather than a heavy-handed explanation of Rain’s cleft palate, details are sprinkled throughout the story, building readers’ understanding of her communication difficulties and readers’ compassion for her."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2012:
"The mystery unravels amidst a sensitive exploration of Rain’s coming to terms with her own quiet, demure personality, with its flaws and its advantages measured against Wendy’s extroversion and desire for recognition and love. The crime itself offers up multiple suspects before a triumphant resolution tinged with melancholy, a conclusion that highlights the fact that while growth is certainly possible, some people, unfortunately, never make it past the slights of high school."

VOYA, February 2012:
"As in her previous novels, Fredericks paints a perceptive picture of teens and their struggles with social pressures. Rain is an interesting protagonist to follow as she tries to overcome her own issues in order to defend her friend who can no longer speak for herself. Fredericks creates believable adult characters as well, which is too often not the case in teen novels. The very real mystery of the story is a riveting background for Rain’s self-struggle, and the plot twists make this a true page-turner. This book will find a ready audience in fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti who are looking for something a bit edgier."

VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
Living in Manhattan with her opera singer mother, sixteen-year-old Rain has always found herself in the role of listener. Born with a cleft palate, Rain is terribly self-conscious of how she sounds, despite intensive speech therapy, and the social strata at her elite prep school make her very wary about making any wrong sounds. When Wendy Geller is found dead in Central Park, the victim of a violent assault, Rain knows she must speak up. Wendy had been Rain's best friend upon her arrival at their school, and Rain had seen the good-hearted aspects of Wendy that most were blind to: Wendy's penchant for stealing other girls' boyfriends had most of the school either in an uproar or scornful. As Rain moves out of her comfort zone to find the truth, she starts seeing everyone differently. Is the killer Nico, the bad boy with a rep who frightened Rain in the past, or was he, too, merely being used by a young, handsome, married teacher, as a distraction? As Rain discovers the truth, she also finds a new voice for herself. As in her previous novels, Fredericks paints a perceptive picture of teens and their struggles with social pressures. Rain is an interesting protagonist to follow as she tries to overcome her own issues in order to defend her friend who can no longer speak for herself. Fredericks creates believable adult characters as well, which is too often not the case in teen novels. The very real mystery of the story is a riveting background for Rain's self-struggle, and the plot twists make this a true page-turner. This book will find a ready audience in fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti who are looking for something a bit edgier. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
Kirkus Reviews
"If Wendy could, she'd scream her killer's name so the whole world heard her… But she can't. Her killer took her voice away. So I have to use mine." When shy Rain's former friend, outgoing Wendy is found strangled to death in a New York City park, at first all Rain can do is grieve and feel regret about their failed friendship. But she soon becomes convinced from classroom gossip about Wendy's last night that the murderer wasn't a homeless vagrant but someone she knew. Wendy had a reputation for going after other girls' boyfriends, and she'd openly announced on Facebook that attached bad boy Nico Phelps would be hers. Did he or his trust-fund girlfriend finally grow tired of her unwelcome advances? Rain is determined to find out, even if it means speaking up, something she rarely does because of a childhood speech impediment. Then a new piece of evidence challenges Rain's initial conclusions, and she is terrified to discover that the murderer is closer than she imagined. Though Rain's amateur investigation doesn't start until the latter part of the novel, and the climax is a bit perfunctory, if gratifying, both Rain and Wendy emerge as fully rounded, flawed characters that teens will recognize and connect with. A satisfying whodunit with enough clues and red herrings to keep mystery fans happy. (Mystery. 14 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375899072
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
370,966
Lexile:
HL510L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

DAY ONE

In my dream, everyone talks except me. It’s a party, and I’m surrounded by voices. I listen. I smile. I nod. No one is actually speaking to me. But still--I want to pretend I’m a part of it.

Faces spin by in a blur. More people now, and still more. They laugh, tease, point fingers. Their talk becomes a meteor shower of sound, the words coming too fast and hard to understand.

And maybe because I am silent, I’m the one who sees her. Wendy. She’s standing in a wide-open window. The city stretches vast and dark behind her. Her toes are poised on the sill, her fingertips just reach the edges. There is nothing to hold her as she stares into the crowded room.

All of a sudden, she wobbles. Her fingers lose their hold. Now it’s all balance. Her arms flail, a foot rises. I am too far away, I can’t reach her in time.

Stop! I yell. But it comes out an ugly blurted Op! People glance over, embarrassed, go back to their talk.

She’s falling! This is She alling! Someone giggles. Another girl tries to hide her smile.

Desperate, I scream, Someone help her! Thomeone elper!

Now the laughter starts. As everyone swings toward me, pointing and snickering, Wendy falls, but no one sees. I howl, No, no! as I feel my heart fall with her.

And someone’s knocking at the door.

I open my eyes, see my mom standing by my bed. Still dazed from the dream, I take in my purple quilt covered in stars, Sullivan the blue whale perched at the foot of my bed, the postcard mosaic on the opposite wall. Faces, because I like faces. Greta Garbo. Edith Piaf. Lucy from Peanuts.

I struggle up, croak, “Hey, Mom.”

“Rain, honey, I’m sorry to wake you.”

I look at the clock. 7:16. We’re visiting my grandmother today, but even so, this is way, way early for Sunday morning. Particularly when I’ve been to a party the night before. Which my mother knows. So what gives?

Blinking, I say, “It’s fine. What’s up?”

“Ms. Geller’s on the phone. She’s looking for Wendy.”

My mom looks at me. What is this?

I look back. I have no idea.


As we walk down the hall, my mom asks, “Was Wendy at the party last night?”

Wendy doesn’t miss parties. “Yeah, she was there.”

“I didn’t know she was still a close friend.”

I make a face like, I didn’t either.

Now we’re at the kitchen. I pick up the phone. “Hi, Ms. Geller.”

“Rain? I’m so sorry to call this early.” She’s talking fast, a little too loud. Scared, I think, but trying not to be.

“No problem at all. What can I do?”

“Well . . .” Big sigh, ends on a shaky laugh. Everything’s okay! “Wendy did not come home last night.”

Faces start flashing in my head. Snatches of conversation. Wendy surrounded by people, laughing--she’s always laughing.

I hear Ms. Geller say, “And, uh, I’m just hoping there’s a very rational explanation.” Again, the weird shaky laugh.

“Oh, absolutely,” I say.

“You were at Karina Burroughs’s party last night, right?”

“Yes. Wendy was there. I definitely saw her.”

“Was she . . . How do I ask this? Was she okay?”

Wendy using two hands to lift a gallon of vodka, sloshing it over a line of plastic cups. Party time!

“Um, it was a party. But when I saw her, she was fine.”

“When did you last see her? Can you remember?”

“I left early,” I apologize. “Before midnight. So probably I saw her at . . .”

Hey, Nico . . .

“Eleven? Eleven-thirty?” I say.

“And she was okay?”

I make agony eyes at my mom, and she squeezes my hand.

“She had had some alcohol,” I say carefully. “But she wasn’t over the edge or anything.”

“Anyone she was with? A boy?”

Come be with me, Nico.

I hate this. I don’t want to tell this woman things she doesn’t want to know. “She has lots of friends, Ms. Geller. Everybody likes Wendy.”

Even as I say this, I wonder why I’m saying it. Because it’s not true.

I finish lamely, “I’m sure she’s fine.”

“But there’s no one you can remember she might have stayed with?”

“Did you try Karina? Or Jenny Zalgat?”

“Oh, yes.” Ms. Geller’s voice turns chilly. “They couldn’t be bothered to come to the phone.”

Hung over, I think. Or protecting Wendy. No--protecting themselves.

I hesitate. There is one other name I could give Ms. Geller.

I blurt out, “Nico Phelps. You could call him.”

“Nico Phelps.” A pause. She’s writing it down. “You don’t have his number?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Okay.” Deep breath. “Okay. Thank you. This is--”

“You truly don’t need to thank me, Ms. Geller. I bet Wendy calls the second you hang up.”

“Probably.” She almost laughs this time, then says, “Actually, that’s another thing.”

“What?”

“I’ve tried calling her cell phone. There’s no answer.”

Wendy checking her cell, chucking it back in her bag. Somebody’s playing mommy again. As if she gives a crap.

“Sounds like she’s feeling a little defiant,” I joke.

“I hope,” says Ms. Geller. “I mean, that that’s . . .”

She stops herself. “Anyway, sweetie, thank you. When this is over, I want you to come to dinner. We’d love to see you. It’s been so long.”

“Yeah, same. And--”

“Yes?”

“Let me know. When it all works out.”

“I will.” And she hangs up.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 20, 2012:
“Rain’s voice provides an authentic portrait of grief and powerlessness, while Fredericks (Crunch Time) offers profound, provocative commentary on what it means to grow up in the age of Facebook.”

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012:
"[B]oth Rain and Wendy emerge as fully rounded, flawed characters that teens will recognize and connect with. A satisfying whodunit with enough clues and red herrings to keep mystery fans happy."

Booklist, April 1, 2012:
"Fredericks has constructed a taut, suspenseful mystery with convincing characters whose actions and motives propel the plot. Rain is an unusual, compelling protagonist, a watcher who must step reluctantly out of her comfort zone. Observant readers...will find as much satisfaction in observing Rain’s personal growth as in the solving of the intriguing mystery."

School Library Journal, May 2012:
"The story starts off slowly, gradually building to a surprise ending. Rather than a heavy-handed explanation of Rain’s cleft palate, details are sprinkled throughout the story, building readers’ understanding of her communication difficulties and readers’ compassion for her."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2012:
"The mystery unravels amidst a sensitive exploration of Rain’s coming to terms with her own quiet, demure personality, with its flaws and its advantages measured against Wendy’s extroversion and desire for recognition and love. The crime itself offers up multiple suspects before a triumphant resolution tinged with melancholy, a conclusion that highlights the fact that while growth is certainly possible, some people, unfortunately, never make it past the slights of high school."

VOYA, February 2012:
"As in her previous novels, Fredericks paints a perceptive picture of teens and their struggles with social pressures. Rain is an interesting protagonist to follow as she tries to overcome her own issues in order to defend her friend who can no longer speak for herself. Fredericks creates believable adult characters as well, which is too often not the case in teen novels. The very real mystery of the story is a riveting background for Rain’s self-struggle, and the plot twists make this a true page-turner. This book will find a ready audience in fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti who are looking for something a bit edgier."

Read More

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