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The Dead Girl

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  139 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Berkeley student Roberta Lee went running with her lover Bradley Page in 1984. Page came back alone and Roberta's battered body was found five weeks later. Within hours, Page confessed to Roberta's murder--and then recanted. Written by Roberta's closest friend, this haunting, multi-layered work is a superb collage of memory, loss, and redemption. Illustrated throughout. Mo ...more
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Atria Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 01, 2015 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kris by: Proustitute
3.5 stars, rounded up.
Erika Anderson
Mar 28, 2010 Erika Anderson rated it did not like it
While this began with a promising introduction discerning the difference between the stories made up about people who have died and the people themselves, it unraveled into pages upon pages of the author's obsessive and repetitive rants on her fears of her own unworthiness. I am shocked it got such good reviews, in fact. Instead, I see the majority of the book as an example of what not to do--excessive, meaningless dialogue, including all source material without editing it down or commenting on ...more
Cyndy Aleo
May 22, 2011 Cyndy Aleo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
Melanie Thernstrom's The Dead Girl is the debut book every writer dreams of ... only it's not. Thernstrom's best friend was murdered while they were students at Harvard. Based on Thernstrom's senior thesis, The Dead Girl describes the disappearance, search for, and murder of Bibi Lee. Lee's boyfriend initially confessed and recanted, but Thernstrom's retelling of the events is devastating: the initial zeal for the search, the eventual slow-down of interest in the case, and the betrayal felt by f ...more
Melanie Lloyd
Dec 22, 2014 Melanie Lloyd rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book which is probably why I suffered through three quarters of it. Don't make that mistake. This book isn't very good. It's repetitive, whiny, and exhausting to read.
Sep 18, 2016 Mickey rated it really liked it
Not a true crime book but a young woman's memoir about struggling toward adulthood. The author bares her naivete and her sheltered, lyrical views of life as she tries to deal with the senseless murder of her best friend. She also must grow out of a comforting, infantilizing love relationship in order to come into her own power. I'm a fan of this author's unique approach to journalism and recommend HALFWAY HEAVEN as her mature book on a similar subject.
Jan 27, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
I read this book the first time when shortly after it was published. I recall the events of Roberta Lee's disappearance followed by the discovery of her murder having been a student at U.C. Berkeley at the time they occurred.
Thernstrom writes about her relationship with Roberta Lee and the horrible tragedy of Lee's death with fluid waves of recall, layering detail after detail.
What I overlooked in my first reading was Thernstrom's whiny insecure badgering of her friends and loved ones to assuag
Mary Rose
I started reading this book before Christmas. Biiiiiiiiiggggg mistake. It is depressing depressing depressing. So I had to take a break and finish it after the holidays.

I loved the first third of the book. "Creative non-fiction" I believe it how David Shields describes it and that's very accurate. Melanie begins by writing about the violent death of a friend, something I have similarly experienced, and she captures that visceral feeling so eloquently and perfectly. Then the book delves more int
Nov 21, 2014 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serial podcast fans
Shelves: t2014-text
When will Goodreads allow half-stars? 3.5 really. Here's one for those of you who think that a week is entirely too long to wait for the next installment of the Serial podcast. This book relates the life and disappearance and death of Bibi Lee, as experienced by her best friend. It's fascinating because it really delves into the psyches of everyone involved (the author, the victim, the accused), and it blurs the line between nonfiction and imagination, and sharing information and withholding inf ...more
Bibi Rose
Sep 10, 2012 Bibi Rose rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Seen as "true crime," I think it's really come out on top, in a way that wouldn't have been anticipated before that genre was so heavily interrogated by Janet Malcolm and before the trueness of memoir went through so many tests. From the perspective of all that, Thernstrom's early books-- this one, and Halfway Heaven-- come across as breathtakingly honest. She makes no claim (that I recall) to get into the heads of Bibi or her boyfriend of anybody else. She lays complete claim ...more
Feb 14, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book to review. I went into expecting more of a True Crime analysis of the murder and trial but since this is written by the "Dead Girl"'s best friend it was more about memory and grief. At times the book was tedious with the author's endless philosophical conversations with friends about appropriate feelings and ethics but other times those same conversations and journal-style entries were compelling and sad. I think it just grew repetitious and a bit long. But the end where ...more
Lola Wallace
Jun 26, 2007 Lola Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because a) Elizabeth Wurtzel uses a line from it as an epigraph in Prozac Nation, and at 14 or whenever I read PN, I set out to devour everything her epigraphs came from and b) Paul John Eakin analyzes it in depth in How Our Lives Become Stories, a FASCINATING book about the construction of identity through narrative. And I LOVED it. There is just so much crazy shit going on, with the life imitating art and the tragedy of the death and the ways these girls became how they were a ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
I'm putting four stars because The Dead Girl is unique. Parts of the story are a compelling true crime who-done-it. I also related to the 1980s setting, and it was interesting to revisit young adulthood before the Internet and cell phones. The author must have one heck of a journal because her retrieval of her every thought and feeling was exceptional. The story lagged in the middle third of the book with the author's recounting of her own struggles - though that is the framework of the book and ...more
Mar 25, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Julie B.
Shelves: own
This is a true crime book written by the victim's best friend. Melanie Thernstrom and Roberta "Bibi" Lee were high school buddies in Cambridge, Mass. Bibi went off to college at Berkeley, and at some point was murdered while jogging with her boyfriend. It's an absorbing and sad story which at times feels self-indulgent - it's as much about Melanie as about Bibi. I think if I read it today, more than 10 years later, I would find it close to unbearable, and bloated by all of Thernstrom's journal-e ...more
Jan 21, 2016 Fishface rated it it was amazing
A stunning, beautifully-written memoir about the murder of the author's best childhood friend. She struggles not only with Bobbi's loss, but the unanswered questions about her life and death, not to mention the insistence of others that she let go of the memories and move on with her life. Thernstrom makes it possible for people who have never lost someone to violence to understand why that is impossible. Bobbi would be so pleased to know that she was this wonderful in someone else's eyes. The b ...more
May 15, 2011 Varonica rated it it was amazing
This book is a true story, a terrible story, involving the disappearance of the author's best friend.
The author wanted to publish her friends' letters to her and fill out the story, but the grieving parents would not let her use the actual letters, as they were now part of her estate. Melanie beautifully recaptured the letters, and tells of the harrowing months of searching for her friend.
Okay, my brother also shows up in this book - as a friend who flies across the country to comfort Melanie. I
Nov 12, 2012 Tracy rated it it was amazing
I was kind of a "true crime" junkie at the time that I read this. (Remember lifetime movies?). Anyway, it's the 80s, it's Cambridge, we were all there. Friends you don't see every day but you think, "she's safe, I talked to her the other day and nothing's happened to me since then!"

Your clothes are inappropriate for a funeral, and she didn't marry him, despite finding a bottle of maple syrup on the street.

Overwrought? Overwritten? Hell, yes. Again, we were 21.
Apr 15, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it
Part 5 of this book is rambling and strange but the beginning and end are great. And terribly sad. Also very '80: leotards are worn.

Thernstrom does an amazing job of capturing the voices of her friends and recreating conversations about existence and morality and justice in the way all confused 20-somethings do.

After some Googling, I found that it has been written that Roberta Lee's ghost haunts the Lothlorien co-op. I think if anyone from Loth read this book they'd think otherwise.
Aug 30, 2008 Caroline rated it really liked it
One of the finest memoirs I've read (long before the spate of self-indulgent titles that marked much of the '90s), Thernstrom succinctly captures the essence of loss filtered through the painful self-awareness that can come only from a college student. As someone who lost my best friend, this really struck a chord.
Apr 28, 2007 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book ages ago & really liked it--she is a beautiful writer and has a great story to tell.
Heather V  ~The Other Heather~
I have...complicated thoughts about this book. It took me just shy of six months to read it, and I think it'll take me a bit to properly review it.
Jun 15, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
Nonfiction. The author's best friend from childhood goes missing while the girls are attending college on opposite coasts. The friend is found murdered.
SM rated it really liked it
Jul 05, 2016
Jenn rated it it was amazing
Jan 12, 2015
Amy Brueckl
Amy Brueckl rated it really liked it
Feb 11, 2016
Apr 19, 2015 Nisha rated it it was ok
The story is intriguing but the writing meandered off fairly early on -- couldn't finish
Trish rated it liked it
Feb 11, 2017
Kathy rated it it was amazing
Mar 20, 2015
Pamela rated it it was amazing
May 22, 2012
Gary Limjuco
Gary Limjuco rated it really liked it
Jan 11, 2013
Cindy rated it did not like it
Dec 19, 2011
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“It was like sawdust, the unhappiness: it infiltrated everything, everything was a problem, everything made her cry -- school, homework, boyfriends, the future, the lack of future, the uncertainty of future, fear of future, fear in general -- but it was so hard to say exactly what the problem was in the first place.” 11 likes
“He's like a lake. You assume it has great depths, pure undisturbed undiscoverable depths. You assume depths must be there because the surface is so flat--pretty and flat and utterly unrevealing. Boring almost, you might say, if you didn't know about the depths, that is, if you didn't believe they were there.” 7 likes
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