The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Title:  The Girl She Used to Be

Author:  David Cristofano

Published:  March 19, 2009

Page Count:  256

Genre:  Fiction

My Rating:  3/5

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 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’s insistent 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?

I have really mixed feelings about The Girl She Used to Be.  Generally speaking, I did enjoy the book.  I found it fast-paced and interesting, I had a difficult time putting it down, and I thought the writing was pretty good.  However, the story itself was so completely implausible that it made it very hard to actually enjoy or get involved with the story at all.  Let me try to explain further.

First, the good.  Cristofano has created an intriguing premise and carried that premise through with many plot twists and interesting situations for the characters to explore.  He also created an extremely believable main character with Melody – despite the fact that she seems to not “know who she really is” I felt like the reader got a clear impression of her from the very beginning of the book, and that only solidified throughout.  She was interesting, complex, very realistic, and totally believable.  I definitely empathized with her and hoped for things to work out for her in the end.  I didn’t love all the decisions she made, but that only made her more realistic to me – in real life, we all make stupid decisions and then have to deal with the repercussions of those decisions.

Now here’s the bad part.  The premise of the story itself is so difficult for me to believe that I could never get fully invested in the story.  I mean, okay, she’s part of the Witness Protection Program but can never keep it quiet long enough to stay put, I get that, but WHY OH WHY does she keep messing stuff up for herself?!  One of the US Marshalls told her himself that they have thousands of people in the program who live perfectly normal lives, yet Melody just couldn’t handle keeping her secret, so she never fell in love, never made friends, never had a career, just because she kept having to screw herself over by blabbing about who she really was.  So that annoyed me.  And then the Jonathan thing – no WAY this could happen in real life.  She is being guarded by a U.S. Marshall, who just happened to take a walk so Jonathan could go into her motel room and kidnap her – WHAT?  Obviously, if this were real life, someone would be guarding her at all times.  And then so much of what happened between the two of them, well I just didn’t get it.  It was just way too convenient, too many coincidences, and I was mostly annoyed by it all.  Also, there was one aspect of her story that Jonathan had questioned, as in, something is going on here, deeper than what it looks, and yet that question was never answered.  This totally irritated me – it was important, in my opinion, and I wanted to know the details.

So, overall, not a bad read, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it with the issues I had.  However, there are several other bloggers who read and enjoy this one, so check out their reviews if you’d like another opinion!


13 thoughts on “The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano”

  1. I’ve read several reviews and though the others generally liked it, it did seem weird that Melody kept messing things up for herself. I assumed it would be more understandable if I read the book. But maybe not.

  2. I really enjoyed this book. None of those things bothered me too much. I didn’t understand why she kept screwing it up for herself either but I liked the book overall. I think I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

    1. well, yes, it definitely was interesting. and like I said, I flew through it so it’s not like it was BAD overall… just too many coincidences for me.

  3. I think I might have to ‘borrow’ some of your words on this and your JCO post! I, too, am reading a book that is really well-written but I’m having trouble ‘buying it’, if you know what I mean and I’m already worried how I’m going to review. You juxtapose your appreciation for the writing with the disbelief of story points really well! Thank you.

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