I’m pleased to be part of blitz tour in celebration of debut release, My Sweet Girl- an intriguing, dark, atmospheric, and suspense thriller- partly author’s experiences of living in the US and being a brown woman navigating typically white spaces, and partly an ode to the horror stories author whispered as a child growing up in Sri Lanka.
My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa
Publication Date : September 14th 2021
Publisher : Berkley Publishing
Genre : Mystery / Thriller
Pages : 384
Disclaimer – I received e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Many thanks to publisher.
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Paloma thought her perfect life would begin once she was adopted and made it to America, but she’s about to find out that no matter how far you run, your past always catches up to you…
Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything—schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she’ll never live up to them.
Now at thirty years old and recently cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America— that is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country.
Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there’s no body—and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.
Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
Early Praise for MY SWEET GIRL
“Like nothing else I’ve read. Set in San Francisco and Sri Lanka, this is a story about friendship, lies, and guilt. A stunning and original must-read!”
—Samantha Downing, author of My Lovely Wife
“A delicious, twisty, fast-paced thriller with the perfect hint of ghost story.”
—Michele Campbell, author of It’s Always the Husband
“Ridiculously good. Crazy good. Scary good.”
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of The First to Lie
“Equal parts witty, chilling, and hypnotic, and it includes some of the creepiest lines and images I’ve ever read.”
—Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister
Ratmalana, Sri Lanka
The shadows from the torch Maya held under her chin made her smile look evil, like the devil mask hung in the assembly hall to ward off the evil eye.
We were all too excited to sleep, so Maya called all the girls to her bunk to tell us ghost stories. I didn’t really want to listen. I’m too old to believe in ghosts. But I didn’t want to be the only one in bed when everyone else was all the way on the other side of the dormitory.
Lihini grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I gave it a squeeze back. She loved ghost stories, which I didn’t really understand. Why would anyone want to be afraid on purpose?
“Relax, Paloma,” she mouthed. I usually got annoyed when people told me to relax. Like saying the words was enough to make me forget what was upsetting me in the first place. As though ghosts and demons would just go away if we simply relaxed. But Lihini was my best friend. I could never get angry with her. I scooted a little closer to her on the floor. There was no such thing as ghosts. It just made me feel safe to be near her.
Maya needed to hurry up. If we got caught out of our beds, we would definitely be scolded. Maybe even punished. They might even cancel the visit tomorrow.
I took a deep breath and shook my head. They would never do that. We hadn’t gotten many visitors to the orphanage in a few months now. Tomorrow was important. Everyone told us so-our headmaster Perera sir, Miss Chandra, even Miss Sarah, our English teacher. We were to be on our best behaviour and make sure we knew exactly what we were supposed to do or say. Miss Chandra supervised the rehearsal today. Everything had to be perfect, and we were so excited that none of us could sleep.
Of course Maya would decide this was the best time to make it all about her. Sometimes I wondered if she even wanted to be adopted. She needed to be more responsible than this. She was twelve now, same as me. It’s not like we were little children anymore.
“She walks slowly. Her feet are bare and dirty and covered in scratches. She wears a long, white dress.” Maya purposely made her voice into a throaty whisper so every one of us leaned forward, barely breathing.
I knew this story. Vana-Mohini, or Mohini, as we call it. We’ve all heard it a million times. We’ve all told it a million times. But I still held tight to Maya’s words.
“There’s blood under her nails, and they are long and sharp, like talons.” She made a sudden clawing motion, and Lihini leaped back, her hands over her mouth.
We all giggled nervously.
“And her long, black hair hangs over her face, like this.” The torch flickered as Maya messed her hair over her face so just her eyes glinted through in the dim yellow light.
“Mohini walks only in the night, revealing herself to people who are all by themselves. Help me. Help me, she begs.” Maya made her voice high and raspy now, like when the chalk slips when you’re writing on a blackboard.
“Some people say Mohini’s eyes are red. Red as blood. And when you look into them, you can see straight into hell. And if you stop to help her, she smiles, and before you know it-“
Maya dropped the torch and lunged forward, wrapping her hands around Lihini’s throat. Lihini couldn’t help it this time. Her small scream rang like an alarm through the dormitory.
I pulled Lihini away from Maya and put my arms around her. If I could have slapped Maya, I definitely would, but there wasn’t time.
“Haiyyo! Quickly, everyone, to bed before we get caught,” I hissed, getting Lihini to her feet and pushing her into her bunk.
Thankfully, the other girls followed.
We all lay very, very still for a few minutes. I could hear nervous panting echoing through the dormitory. Maya really did give everyone a shock. But thankfully none of the matrons came.
What on earth was she thinking? Getting us into trouble the night before Mr. and Mrs. Evans got here. Those were their names. Mr. and Mrs. Evans. Perera sir told us so we could memorise them. Evans-like when Miss Sarah told us about Mary Ann Evans, who went by George Eliot, who wrote The Mill on the Floss. I suppose I could understand why you would want to pretend to be someone else. But I could never, ever understand why someone wouldn’t want to go by the name Evans. It was beautiful.
I whispered it out loud.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans. I hoped they liked us. And me. I really hoped they liked me.
My Sweet Girl was suspenseful thriller that revolved around Paloma’s past life and her past catching up for what she did to get adopted. The story was about life of orphans, trust, friendship, betrayal, revenge, lies and deceit.
TW – physical and mental abuse, paedophiles, bullies, sexual assault, stalker, murder, kicking dog
Writing was gripping, atmospheric and steady paced, first person narrative from Paloma’s perspective. The story was in dual timeline taking place in present California and past in orphanage in Sri Lanka which made story more mysterious and suspenseful.
That synopsis was perfect so I would say much about the plot. It was not as simple as I first thought. Author did amazing job with outlining storyline in a way that revealed things one by one, keeping readers guessing, have lots of questions until last few chapters. I was curious to know from the beginning what was Paloma’s secret, what was in the letter, why her parents cut her off, what she did that made her roommate to blackmail her, who killed him, and who from her past wanted to destroy her.
It was amazing the way author turned everything that looked all nice and good, including characters and setting, into so twisted, dark, and sinister.
Characters were complicated. I didn’t like any of them, only few side characters but both main characters, protagonist and antagonist were horrible. Sure one wasn’t as bad as the other but I didn’t like them.
Paloma was unreliable character. At first, I couldn’t understand why she was mean and judgemental towards every next character she met. But the more I read about her the more I disliked her and I was sure she did something bad. At some point I feel bad that she couldn’t have easy life even after being adopted by wealthy parents and all the privilege she got. She didn’t have any real friends nor did she achieved anything in life. She was living lonely miserable life with guilt gnawing at her soul and mind that she kept drowning her with alcohol. I pitied her more than feel for her and when one by one her lies were revealed, how she behaved before her adoption, and the main revelation of what she did, I didn’t feel bad or even pitied her miserable life even though I could understand why any of the girl would be desperate to get out of that orphanage. I don’t agree with Paloma for what she said to antagonist at the end about the book. I still don’t think her being child excuses all the lies she created, even after coming to California.
Antagonist was no better than Paloma. I liked antagonist at first. That person wasn’t as bad as Paloma and I could see what happened would alter anyone in that person’s place. It was soul shattering to read what that person had to go through because of Paloma. I’m sure if situation was reversed that person wouldn’t behave like Paloma did nor would do anything Paloma did. I get the revenge but I don’t like that person for taking innocent lives for revenge.
Setting of orphanage was dark and atmospheric. Those chapters in past were most interesting. I liked reading about this orphanage and girls living their, knowing their life and story. I was smiling at first , thinking something good existed in world. Damn, I was so wrong. For thousand times I wondered why girls didn’t stood up for each other, why wouldn’t they try to run away or find some authority to help them, and why would girls think of creepy look of young man as affection! It was just horrible everything related to this place and it deserved what antagonist did.
There were layers of racism, bullying and prejudice not just towards South Asian characters but also among them and their views towards white. It also represented trauma of losing child, because of abusive people and sexual predators. I liked mention of classic novels in this book.
All twists and turns were well written. I had theories about mystery and I could even name the antagonist at one point but still author managed to surprise me in climax. Climax was intense with all surprising and some shocking revelation. End was good.
Why 4 stars-
This was slow burn thriller. Often I wanted to put it down because of pace. I was really impatient many time to just get through the book and reach the interesting part, to all revelations.
Overall, My Sweet Girl was intriguing, suspenseful, dark and atmospheric thriller with well written twists and complicated characters.
I recommend this if you like,
Slow burn thriller
complex and unlikable characters
dark and atmospheric setting
intriguing and suspenseful plot
South Asian character and setting
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About the Author
Amanda Jayatissa grew up in Sri Lanka, completed her undergrad at Mills College, CA, and lived in the UK before moving back to her sunny little island. She works as a corporate trainer, owns a chain of cookie stores, and is a proud dog-mum to her two spoiled huskies. Amanda Jayatissa is available for interviews.
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