Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Random House
When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.
Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.
Here’s what I thought:
The premise of Cartwheel is intriguing in a “snatched from the headlines” kind of way, as the news-savvy reader can’t help but be reminded of the Amanda Knox case. The book tells the story of a college-age American girl who is studying abroad and finds herself accused of murdering her roommate. It’s a high-profile case that hints at sexual depravity and collusion between young people that results in the death of another. Sound familiar?
This book has a lot of things going for it. The writing is sharp and intelligent, yet it reads easily. The point of view shifts between several different characters, which keeps things interesting and caused me to constantly re-evaluate my impression of the events that are slowly revealed over the course of the book. There’s Andrew Hayes, the father of the accused Lily, as he comes to Buenos Aires to try to help his daughter; Sebastien Le Compte, the troubled neighbor with whom Lily is involved in a rather depressing relationship; Eduardo Campos, the prosecutor who is convinced that Lily is guilty; and Lily herself, as she narrates her perspective of the events leading up to the murder.
Cartwheel has a very realistic feel to it in that there are no black and white characters. DuBois portrays each individual in a way that shows their humanity, both the good and the bad. There are no truly sympathetic characters, but neither are there any clear villains (with one possible exception). My view of the problem that is at the heart of the book–Did Lily kill Katy?–was never fully formed and I went back and forth up until the very end.
While Cartwheel could be read as a crime novel, it becomes much more than that through its exploration of the complexity behind a situation which is portrayed by the media as a simple (albeit lurid) open and shut case. A gripping and thought-provoking read–recommended.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with a review copy of this book.
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