Last year when it was announced that Jessica Knoll was going to be publishing her third book, I was over the moon. Her first novel, Luckiest Girl Alive, is one of my favorite books of all time and one of the first 'thrillers' I ever read so it's responsible for a very long love affair with the genre.

I did enjoy her second book, The Favorite Sister was published in 2018 and that was it, until last year. Bright Young Women was desperately needed in the literary world, and in my personal collection. I craved a new Knoll novel and she delivered in so many ways. 

This is not your typical Knoll novel. It is completely different from her other two and feels more literary, more deep, and more thoughtful. That is not a knock on the other two novels because like I said, they're two of my favorite books ever... it's just that this was such a shift and that's probably because of the subject matter.

Publisher's Summary

Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll—author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis—delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer—and that he’s struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation.

My Thoughts

When I first read the summary about Bright Young Women and saw that it was based on Ted Bundy, I was locked in. It was such an interesting idea, a fictional take on a real life crime and one that has been widely covered. We were going to get an inside 'look' at what happened, what it was like to be a survivor during the sorority murders, and it sounded incredibly different from anything I've read before.

I can confirm, it definitely was not like anything I've ever read and I loved every minute of it. It was thrilling, chilling, and weirdly beautiful. 

One of the most interesting and obvious points of the book was the fact that Pamela, one of our protagonists, never ever mentioned Ted Bundy by name. It was intentional by both Pamela and Jessica Knoll to not give him the nod and to truly center the victims and survivors in this story.

The book goes back and forth between multiple timelines; we see Tina Cannon and her friend in the 'past', we see Pamela and the sorority murders in the more 'present' and then Pamela as a grown woman in the actual present. It's not confusing at all and you're aware that eventually, all the timelines will meet up. 

There is so much more to this book than just Ted Bundy. We see so many signs of the times within the pages too; anti LGBTQ+ rhetoric, women ditching careers for a husband, and the pure disregard for women and their thoughts, beliefs, and truths. It was truly about women in so many ways, hence the name of the book.

Bright Young Women was chilling at times and I couldn't read it at night until almost halfway through the book. The way Pamela described The Defendant (as he was referred to throughout the entire book) was scary, and there is a point in the book when she actually has the chance to confront the Defendant and that sent shivers down my spine.

The entire book encompasses the search for justice whether it was against the men who wronged our protagonists, The Defendant, or society. 

I don't want to say much else because I'll reveal too much but there are plenty of twists, breakthroughs, thrilling turns and heartfelt moments. Everything comes together in the end, we get all our answers and it feels like a really beautiful, important tribute to victims everywhere. 

If you have any interest in true crime, not just domestic thrillers and mystery novels, you will throughly enjoy Bright Young Women and it'll change your perspective on a lot of things in our world.

I also highly recommend listening to and reading Jessica Knoll interviews about this book because it'll give you more insight into why and how she wanted to write this book.


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