Title: The Girl She Used To Be
Author: David Cristofano
Release Date: March 19, 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Melody Grace McCartney has had many different names over the years. She’s lived in so many nondescript towns that she can’t remember them all. She’s had multiple jobs, multiple lives – all because she’s a member of WITSEC, the Federal Witness Protection Program. When she was six years old, Melody and her parents saw Tony Bovaro, a New York mobster, kill a man. Twenty years later, Melody doesn’t know how to live life, which is acceptable since she doesn’t really have one. She pretends to have been threatened in order to move to a new locale, to get a fresh start. But on her latest fake out, she is contacted by Jonathan Bovaro, the son of the man who is trying to kill her, and together, they try to change Melody’s future.
I had very mixed feelings on The Girl She Used To Be, so let me start by saying that I absolutely loved the premise. A woman in the Federal Witness Protection Program? Cristofano does an incredible job portraying what that might do for your personal life, for your emotional well-being. Melody has no friends, no confidantes, no one close she can turn to. It’s too dangerous for them (and for her, psychologically) for her to confide in anyone, so she shuts that part of herself off. She feels that WITSEC has failed her, that her and her family bore all the costs of entering the program for nothing. At the beginning of the book, Melody’s anger and frustration ring completely true and she is a very realistic character.
However, that changes as the novel progresses. Melody becomes almost a caricature, acting completely irrationally and is very difficult to understand. Her emotions vary wildly from one moment to the next. While it’s understandable that a woman in her situation might be emotional, this just doesn’t seem realistic. As the novel progresses, Melody seems less and less like a real person; instead, she comes across as what a male writer thinks a woman might act like in any given situation, mercurial and difficult to predict.
The overall plot is also difficult to swallow. It’s hard to accept that Melody would willingly leave the custody of the US Marshals for Jonathan Bovaro. Yes, WITSEC did fail her and her family, but Jonathan’s plan is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that anyone would accept it, especially when lives are at stake.
Overall, The Girl She Used To Be had a lot of promise, but unfortunately fell flat for me. I absolutely loved what I thought the book would be about, and the first 50 pages of it really lived up to my expectations. But once the actual plot started, between that and Melody’s reactions to what was going on around her, I began to like it less and less. I will definitely still be on the look out for the next book by David Cristofano, but unfortunately this one didn’t work for me.