August 18, 2020

Andrea Contos: "Throwaway Girls" (ARC Review)

Title: Throwaway Girls [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Andrea Contos [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary
Year: 2020
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Tense and intense. Doesn't employ the classic "mean girls" trope all too often included in the YA thriller package.
Cons: Requires some suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to the lack of consequences for the final showdown (that doesn't seem to impact the characters much, by the way).
WARNING! Killings/dead characters. Underage drinking, smoking and drug use.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a fresh approach to teen thrillers.

Blurb: Caroline Lawson is three months away from graduation day. That's when she'll finally escape her rigid prep school and the parents who thought they could convert her to being straight. Until then, Caroline is keeping her head down, pretending to be the perfect student even though she is heartbroken over the girlfriend who left for California. But when her best friend Madison disappears, Caroline feels compelled to get involved in the investigation. Caroline has some uncomfortable secrets about the hours before Madison disappeared, but they're nothing compared to the secrets Madison has been hiding. And why does Mr. McCormack, their teacher, seem to know so much about them? It's only when Caroline discovers other missing girls that she begins to close in on the truth. Unlike Madison, the other girls are from the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Madison's, their disappearances haven't received much attention. Caroline is determined to find out what happened to them and why no one seems to notice. But as every new discovery leads Caroline closer to the connection between these girls and Madison, she faces an unsettling truth. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: this title was up for grabs on NetGalley (in the Read Now section). Thanks to Kids Can Press for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.


I'm always on the lookout for a good YA thriller that doesn't employ the usual "all against all" or "you can't trust literally anybody" plot device, and even more than that, the old "mean girls" trope. For some reason, it seems that, in this genre, catty classmates and petty fights are a must - and of course, there's nothing wrong with them if you like that kind of narrative, but I don't enjoy it at all. Throwaway Girls sounded like the happy exception to the above rules, and I'm happy to report it delivered - though some late mistrust between friends ensued, and painful secrets were uncovered along the way...but without any of them, there would likely be no mystery at all 🤷‍♀️. It was refreshing how certain secondary and even minor characters were able to take on a real supporting role, though I'm not saying that none of them had ulterior motives. It was especially refreshing that girls were sticking for each other - at least some of them - and that, despite its focus being the disappearance of a privileged white girl, the story also brought to the forefront the "invisible ones" most people give up on (though, to be honest, at first they were mostly instrumental in finding Caroline's friend - but she ended up genuinely caring for them). [...]


I have to admit I'm not the best judge of how successful thrillers/mysteries are in term of baffling the reader (despite my being a huge Agatha Christie fan). Anyhow, even if TG has got a limited number of suspects to offer, I wasn't able to point my finger at the culprit - maybe ALSO because, when revealed, their motives (at least for putting into motion the chain of events that would end with Madison's disappearance) sounded a bit far-fetched to me. But generically speaking, I can see why that person would become a girl abductor and serial killer. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the secondary (often poignant) narrative involving a mystery character, and again, I wasn't able to understand who they were until the revelation came. On top of that, Contos was very good at differentiating the two leads' voices, and I ended up waiting for the chapters from the mystery character's POV with great anticipation, just because I liked being in their head even while not having a clue about their identity (though of course I had some theories that, as I said, were ultimately proven wrong).


TG is not only a mystery: it's an unapologetic queer book, with a bisexual protagonist, and even a section where her best (male) friend - and secret admirer - tries to have her explain what she likes in women, which results in a hilarious (but also deep) confrontation. It's a strong romance between two girls from different walks of life, and a friendship/loyalty examination. Also, it's a look (if brief) at conversion-camp culture and parents' warped expectations. Lastly - while this is less in-your-face - it's a story where non-white characters aren't only the ones from the wrong side of the tracks (though there's a higher number of them, but then again, it's because, being overlooked by the system, they're the easiest prey for the killer, and this is their story as much as Madison's).


And here it goes...the knotty point that made me decide not to round my rating up to 4 stars. Basically, after the final showdown, there's a startling lack of consequences. Something really dark ensues, and those who should be affected by it the most (the perpetrator and a collateral victim) get to walk away from it unscathed - in more than one way. Not only I expected a trial of sorts and it didn't happen (which pushed my suspension of disbelief to the limit), but also, it sounded like the experience didn't have a huge impact on the perpetrator...which made me feel disconnected from their character. Regardless, I did enjoy the story as a whole, and I can honestly recommend it to everyone who's looking for a teen thriller with a developing social conscience and a queer heart.

Note: writing-wise...I know we aren't supposed to talk about this when it comes to ARCs...but I was able to spot (besides a few innocent typos that will most certainly get corrected in the final version) at least three instances of "it's" for "its", which is something that never fails to set me on edge. But my final rating didn't take them into consideration.

For more Thriller/Mystery books click here.
For more Contemporary books click here.


  1. Little dark for my tastes, but I always like to hear that the "who" was unknown to you for a good part or all of the story. That's what's fun about books like this.

    1. I like to rack my brain over this stuff, but thank goodness, most authors know how to be misleading. In retrospect, the whodunnit should have been obvious for a couple of reasons...but maybe I was too engrossed in the story to see that LOL.

  2. Sounds interesting, and that last bit put me in mind of another book that had a similar impact on me, where there weren't the consequences I was expecting at the end. Although to be fair that book (Girls in the garden by Lisa Jewell) was a different kettle of fish story- wise, sounds like, but still... your wording reminded me of how I felt when I finished that one. anyway... this sounds good and thought provoking! And glad the rep was good as well!

    1. I looked your book up, and yep, it definitely sounds like a different story, but that doesn't mean there can be the same problem. When sometimes like that happens, I feel a bit cheated, both because it's not plausible AND because it shouldn't be so easy for anyone (even with justified motives) to get away with committing a crime...Anyhow, I did enjoy the story!

  3. This sounds really good. I haven't read it but it sounds interesting.

  4. Wow, how did I somehow miss this one? I like a good YA thriller too but they're becoming a bit cookie cooker. We do need more LGBTQIA+ thrillers so I'll look into this one!

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

  5. Despite your few quibbles - it sounds like it's worth reading just for the originality and friendship aspect.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. There are quite a few things that this book does right!

  6. This sounded pretty good - especially because of the lack of catty girls, I *hate* that trope and I'm glad we're seeing less and less of it - up until you mentioned your problems with the ending. :/ I'm also not a fan when I have to suspend my disbelief about the motivation of the killer/kidnapper, so I'm not happy that was necessary for you here. Either way, glad you still enjoyed this. Great review, as always! :)

    1. Thank you hon! My main problem was with the lack of consequences actually, but until then, the story paid off.


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