Title: The Ice Cream Girls
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5
It’s been over twenty years since it all happened. Twenty years since Poppy and Serena, two teen girls, were accused of killing their high school teacher, with whom each of them had been having an affair. Twenty years since Poppy was found guilty and Serena innocent. Now, Poppy is being released from prison, and the only thing that has carried her through her term is the fact she knows she’s innocent. Now she’s intent on finding Serena and forcing her to confess to the murder. When Serena discovers Poppy is being released, she fears that the life she’s built will come crumbling down, as she hasn’t told her husband the truth about what happened.
The Ice Cream Girls is a superb psychological thriller about two very different women with a tragic past in common. Poppy and Serena were both taken advantage of by their teacher. They were young, naïve girls who were manipulated and psychologically, emotionally, and physically abused by a man they should have been able to trust. Koomson doesn’t shy away from depicting the horror that each of these women underwent as teenagers. It’s brutal, but very well done, and it helps to explain how damaged both Poppy and Serena are now.
Koomson tackles the question of innocence versus guilt very well in The Ice Cream Girls. From the beginning, Poppy maintains her innocence. Yet can the reader really trust her? And it appears as though Serena wasn’t the murderer as well. But memory is fallible and the reader is never entirely sure of who they can trust, especially considering it would be difficult to blame either of the girls if they had been guilty.
This question of guilt and innocence extends into family. Serena wonders whether her sisters actually believe that she didn’t commit the crime, while Poppy must grapple with the fact that her parents want nothing to do with her since her release from prison. Not only that, but they are keeping her from communicating with her siblings. Poppy’s life has been ruined by her prison time, but though Serena looks like she has gotten off scot-free, it’s clear that’s not the case. She keeps secrets from her husband and distrusts her sisters. Koomson deals with these nuances very well, making it difficult to paint anything as black and white in this book.
Because of the multiple issues it deals with, as well as the expertly drawn main characters, The Ice Cream Girls would make an excellent book club pick. Koomson’s thoughtful portrayal of both Serena and Poppy will speak to readers. It’s a psychological thriller with a lot of depth, which fans of the genre should welcome.
Other books by Dorothy Koomson: