ARC Review: Grit by Gillian French

Rating: 4 out of 5

Expected publication: May 16th 2017 by HarperTeen


His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

Raw and moving, this contemporary realistic debut novel will leave readers of E. Lockhart and Gayle Forman breathless as it unflinchingly unfolds the tragic secrets being kept in a small, deceptively idyllic Maine town.

Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.

But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.


Grit is a solid and intensely sincere story with a dark tale that's rugged and sharp.
The characters are all flawed. Some more so than others.The writer did a great job enabling me to escape to the small fictional town of Sasanoa near the Penobscot river, Maine. A tiny community where everybody knows everybody else's business. Your life and what you make of it gets to be heard by all, young or old.

At the heart of the novel is a missing girl. Rhiannon was Darcy Prentiss' friend up to a year ago. Not necessarily best friends but they used to hang out, chat about guys they wanted to get off with, talk about their school peers, and visit the quarry or the drive-in movie at night to get drunk or smoke some weed. At school Darcy became uncomfortable with Rhiannon when she started asking questions about Darcy's cousin, Nell. Darcy's life spins into a downward spiral the night Rhiannon disappeared. They'd been with Kat, Darcy's other go-to friend but no one knows where Rhiannon went. Or if they do know they're not telling.

It's summer and harvest time. Darcy's working at picking blueberries for a summer job. She needs the money to buy new school clothes and books for her senior year. She lives with her sister, Mags, and her mother. Her father died when she was eleven in a stupid tragic accident leaving them all to fend for themselves. They've done okay but there's not very much money around that doesn't get spent on bills or Darcy's mum's smokes. Nowadays her mum loves nothing more than to smoke and remembers her days with the girl's father. She's somewhat idle. Sometimes food isn't bought. Sometimes there's no milk in the fridge. They all live life near the grindstone and life is tough. In a trailer on the grounds of their house lives Darcy's aunt Libby and her daughter, Nell. Nell is a lovely but simple. She's smart, though, in her own way, beautiful and truthful to the core. But under the surface, and even though she's almost nineteen Nell is treated by her mother like a twelve-year-old. Darcy, Mags and Nell spend most of their time together and Darcy is very protective of her cousin but in a different way than Nell's mum.

Darcy can't escape the shadow of Rhiannon. Even as work starts with the blueberry picking a police car turns up and the rumours start. Have they found Rhiannon? Do they know where she went? Or why she disappeared? Did she go with someone?

Soon the police are at Darcy's home again asking more questions. What happened the night she disappeared? Who was she with?

Rhiannon's disappearance dogs Darcy's day-to-day living like a stone in a shoe. The police won't let it go, they think Darcy is hiding something. Even Darcy's family isn't convinced she's telling the whole truth. And Darcy isn't. But that's the point. She isn't telling anyone what she knows. And because she's keeping this gigantic secret that could rip a huge hole across not just her family but the town also, Darcy buries the secret by 'escaping.' She goes out with her friends who do anything to have fun and just have a laugh out loud. That means making out with boys and a whole lot more. But Darcy will protect Nell at all costs.

From the outset, Grit is a truthful and sometimes painful attempt at making us want to look further below the surface. Not everything is cut-and-dry and crystal clear. Not everything is what it seems. Without the support system guiding Darcy to do the right thing, either by friends or family, she's forced to make decisions that are defeatist at best and head turning at worst.

Gillian French has proven her worth with this dark, deep and gritty tale that twists and turns even until the end
 - CBx

Gillian French‘s short fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies. In addition to Grit, she has also written the YA novel The Door to January, which will be published by a small Maine press in May 2017. She holds a BA in English from the University of Maine. She lives in Maine with her husband and son.
You can find Gillian French here:


  1. Not familiar with this one but I'm always game for a darker YA novel. Hopefully my library will have a copy when it comes out.

  2. Hi Kimberley, definitely one that stands out. Lots of twists! Thanks for coming by :)


I love hearing from fellow readers. Write a message!