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Secrets of Southern Girls

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  940 ratings  ·  211 reviews
In this powerful, affecting debut, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What's worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

Julie Portland was raised by her aunt after losing her parents when she was young. When she met her new next door neighbor, Reba it was as if they we destined to be best friends. They were extremely close. But it's almost like tragedy follows, Julie. When they are teenagers, Reba dies. Her death is ruled an accident but Julie feels that it's her fault, that she's the one responsible. She leaves Mississippi not long after.

The Set Up:
Julie lives in Manhattan with her daughter Beck, struggling to make ends meet.  Her and her husband have long since gone their separate ways but Julie can still count on him for Beck’s sake.  
Julie’s then best friend Reba died suddenly and tragically when they were still teenagers and though officially ruled accidental Julie still feels responsible, complicit somehow in Reba’s death.  When Reba’s high school boyfriend August shows up unexpectedly in NYC he tells Julie that Reba had a
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
The only reason I finished this is because netgalley sent it to me. If not for that, I would have given up well before the halfway mark.

Don't get me wrong, the author is a good writer. In fact, some of the wording is quite beautiful, and she should be proud of that because it's not easy to do.

But, and this is a big but, there are serious issues with the dialogue and the diary entries that were supposed to be written from the pov of a teenager. Also, the naivete of one of the characters in regard
Sarah Joint
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised this book doesn't have a higher average rating. That may change when it's actually released. I think it's actually quite fantastic for a debut novel. It isn't without it's faults, for sure. It's a slow burn, and some of the dialogue did come across as a bit stilted. But it's a tragically beautiful story that is done well. I'm not sure what this author will come up with next, but count me in. Some of the characters are unlikable at times, but I think that's one of the hallmarks of a ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
This book is very slow to start. I had no idea where it was even going at the beginning. I didn't have a sense of the main character, Julie, at all. It usually doesn't bother me if a book is purposely obtuse in the beginning. But there has to be something to keep you engaged. And this book just didn't have it. I kept waiting to finally get hooked and never did. I seriously thought about giving up on it.

The gist of the book is that Julie’s best friend, Reba, died in high school. Reba’s HS boyfri
Purple Country Girl (Sandy)
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, e-arc
3.5 stars

Available June 6, 2017

Orphaned as a small child, Julie Portland was raised by her aunt in the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi. It’s not a happy fit for Julie and she is lonely until she becomes close to Reba, the girl who lives next door. The girls are inseparable throughout their childhood and are as close as sisters until the unthinkable happens when they are teenagers: Reba dies - and Julie believes she is responsible. The death is ruled a suicide but Julie is convinced Reba
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a very powerful story that captivates you with every page you turn.

Ten years ago Julie accidentally kills her best friend. There was no punishment by law for her, she's punished herself.

She left her hometown determined that nothing and no one would bring her back.

She was wrong.

Her marriage falls apart, she just surviving with her daughter Beck.
Reb is always breaking through the surface of her mind although at times she's been busy and distracted but things have a way of surfacing. Res
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
All of my reviews can be found on


Julie has never been able to get over the death of her high school best friend Reba, not even ten years later and she’s not happy to be back in her small hometown, but the allure of a diary Reba left behind is too strong for her to ignore. This is told mainly through Julie’s eyes in 2008, though there are a few brief chapters from August and Toby as well. (Toby is Julie’s cousin who she lived with after her parents died.) There are also c
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What's worse is she got away with it.

First I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me a copy of this book.

My eyes were completely glued to Secrets of Southern Girls and I sped through it in one day. This book was tragic and the people in it were so messed up, almost every one of them. From the first page when we meet Julie we can see that she has issues with love and men that are
May 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is one book that I am indifferent to write a review about. The author's writing is good but the story is not compelling. Worse, I did not have any feelings for the main characters other than pity and dislike. The book revolves around the death of 17 year old Reba which had occurred ten years earlier. Julie, Reba's best friend, is the main character and is very hard to fathom. I don't feel like I know her and would not care to know her in real life. The other characters are just as self abso ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A more complete review is available on my blog:

This book had a great beginning. It takes place in a town full of racism and Reba and August were the star-crossed lovers there. Julie was an orphan who lacked the love she needed from her new family and looked for it elsewhere. In addition, there seemed to be an element of a mystery that was unfolding. It lacked any kind of surprise and the ending was very predictable, though. While the writing was fluid and
Booksandchinooks (Laurie)
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book started off slow but half way through moved a lot quicker. I was glad I persevered! Jules is living in NYC and a boy she knew from her past shows up and asks her to go back to their hometown for them to have closure regarding the death of Jules best friend, Reba. Reba died ten years earlier and Jules is under the impression that she killed her. August, Reba's secret boyfriend, wants to know what exactly happened that night. Jules and August return and find out much more than they barga ...more
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing and characterization, especially with Reba and Toby. Although Julie and August are the main leads, for me, Reba and Toby stole the spotlight. Toby is very unlikeable and does some crappy things, but is brought beautifully to life and you really feel his emotions. Reba, the sweet, innocent girl next door, is really not what she seems. Ms. Harrigan slowly reveals Reba's more complex character through the long-hidden diary.
A nice debut book, but could use a little help with some o
Sharon Huether
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reba and Julie, best of friends forever,since childhood.
Reba keeps a diary. Julie and friends, Toby and August want to know the contents of that diary.
Julie has felt guilty for years, thinking she was responsible for her friend Reba's death.
After finding and the diary and reading it. they all realized all the lies that Reba told.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
via my blog
She only has lovers in wintertime.

In summer, the days stretch long like lazy animals, and the sun’s rays reach like warm fingers down between the buildings and slide gently across her face and arms. It’s harder, then, to think of dark things.

Just what are the dark things in Julie Portland’s past? The haunting knowledge she carries and the fear that she has her best friend’s blood on her hands, and her guilty conscience. Now a single mother, she s
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Got a copy of this book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is a nicely written story that revolves around guilt and reliving memories. It shows how events from the past can change you and can have an impact on you for a very long time.

This review was first posted on BiteIntoBooks Blog

Switch between now and then: The book has a lot of going back and forth; reliving memories and events from the past with Julie, August and Reba. It's slowly coming around what actually happened
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Julie lives in New York City with her five year old daughter Rebecca whom she calls Beck. Julie and Evan are divorced and he pays for the expensive private school that Beck attends. Julie keeps thinking of Reba and August everyday. Brighton is the only one she shares her secrets with. Brighton took Julie out to hear the new drummer in his band. August approaches Julie and Brighton in the club. Julie runs out of the club she can't believe August has foun
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Julie Portland has a secret from her past that has shaped her adult life. Now it has caught up with her and she knows it is time to face that past. Her secret has colored her adult relationships and she is afraid it will cause her to make bad decisions as a mother. August was part of the past she ran to New York to escape and he has found her and convinced her to return to Lawrence Mill, a place she thought she would never see again. Once they arrive back in Lawrence Mill it's as if the past ten ...more
Christine Moore
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
10 years ago Julie fled her hometown thinking she killed her best friend Reba. She now lives in New York with her 5 year old daughter. Julie vows never to return to Mississippi. Reba's boyfriend August comes to see Julie and beg her to return to Mississippi with him to find Reba's diary and finally figure out the truth of what happened to Reba. Julie goes with August to find out the truth. The book is told from the past and the present and we see Reba through her diary. It was a good book about ...more
Judy D Collins
Blog Tour Host & Book Giveaway Contest.

Haley Harrigan delivers a twisty mystery southern debut SECRETS OF SOUTHERN GIRLS – a grown woman and mother, with demons from her past which surface. . . part young adult, and coming-of-age; haunting secrets that shape lives.

Julie Portland has a secret. Years ago she escaped this small southern town; however, she has never forgotten the trauma. Now she is in New York, and the ghosts of the past stare her in the face.

Ten years earlier, Julie’s best fr
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, netgalley
Secrets of Southern Girls is a debut novel for Haley Harrigan. Julie Portland and her best friend Reba grew up in a mill town in Mississippi in the 1990s. Julie thought they shared everything. But when they were seniors in high school Julie learned there were some big secrets Reba had been keeping from her. Julie was hurt and mad. And then something terrible happened. Reba was dead. Her body was found down river from their favorite bridge. Did Reba commit suicide? Or was she pushed? Did J
Patricia Doyle
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The story starts a little slowly but then begins to pique my interest. The writing flows nicely with broad use of metaphors and similes in a pleasing way. There is superb character development and excellent use of first person/third person narrative. Once I “got into it”, I hated to put the book down and looked forward to getting back to reading it once again.

The twists and turns along the way kept me surprised with no accompanying eye-rolling.

The only weak premise for me is that Julie believed
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
*I've got this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review*

First of all, in my opinion, this book could have been much shorter. Parts of it dragged so much, that finally I started skipping the paragraphs and then pages and still didn't miss anything that was important to the story.

The mystery itself wasn't developed enough. From the beginning I suspected how it will turn out to be. It just wasn't something that I hadn't read before.

Characters.... I just can say, that all of them were b
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, fiction
See my full review and much more on my blog KissinBlueKaren

First, I have to talk about the writing in this book. The author has a rare talent that can transform the reader right to a place by description. The writing is really beautiful. I loved the small town of Lawrence Mills and the feel of this whole story. The mystery of what happened to Reba is the central theme of this book. The other thing this story really highlights is secrets. While everyone has something they hide, the people in
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This a well-constructed mystery in which Julie reluctantly returns to her home town to try to uncover the truth about what really happened the night her best friend, Reba, died. Although, in her heart, she already knows the truth – that it was she who was responsible for Reba’s death – at least that’s what she’s always believed since she has only fragments of memory about what happened that night.

The story is told partly in the present as Julie and Reba’s boyfriend, August, search for answers an
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
I have to admit I had a hard time getting into this book because it started off fairly slow. This often is the case with books and then they seem to pick up about 1/4 of the way in, but this one just didn't really pick up until much farther into the book. I also really never connected with the main character Julie and when I don't really get invested in the main character, I tend to lose interest in the story itself. Julie's best friend Reba, died in high school and Reba's then boyfriend, finds ...more
Pamela Small
Feb 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: yuck-bleh-arrgh
There was a great deal of suspense in anticipation of solving the quirky conflict. The storyline was intriguing, and I was pulled in.

However, it was way too long with too much redundancy. Structurally, the book suffers from numerous grammatical errors, especially in the dialogue. The quote from the character Brighton says it best: " Wow. That is one screwed up story." My sentiments exactly. In the end, it was just TOO quirky for this reader to care, and I regretted wasting my time.

I received t
Bonnye Reed
Dec 15, 2016 rated it liked it
GNab I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Haley Harrigan, and Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me.

This is a quick read, taking us all back to simpler days, to the angst of first love and small southern Mississippi town 'normal'. Julie and Reba, however, didn't do anything either simple or normal, and that is what gives this tale it's juice.

pub date Jun 6 2017
Sourcebooks Landmark
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The details hardly matter, once your story is complete. all those memories turn blurry at the edges, and that anger and panic and guilt wears away to something softer.

Julie Portland is haunted by her past and the death of her best friend Reba. Reba was everything that Julie was not and in Julie's mind Reba was saint where Julie was the sinner. Julie and Reba became friends when Julie's parents were killed in auto accident and she came to live with her aunt and her cousin Taylor. Reba and her fa
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan is the kind of book that takes time to fully grab your attention but once it does, you end up finding yourself totally engrossed to the last page. The story starts out a bit slow with Julie at New York. I struggled a little with the beginning. I couldn’t figure out where the story was heading to and I wasn’t interested in what was going on at that point. However, the pace quickly changed once August came into the story. He shows up in Julie’s life tryi ...more
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