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The Cave Dwellers

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This “delicious take on the one percent in our nation’s capital” ( Town & Country ) and clever combination of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Nest explores what Washington, DC’s high society members do behind the closed doors of their stately homes.

They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.

But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question in this unputdownable novel that “combines social satire with moral outrage to offer a masterfully crafted, absorbing read that can simply entertain on one level and provoke reasoned discourse on another” ( B ooklist, starred review).

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 25, 2021

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About the author

Christina McDowell

4 books177 followers
Christina McDowell is the author of After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, O (Oprah) Magazine, People Magazine, The Village Voice among others. Her forthcoming novel, The Cave Dwellers, will be published on May 25, 2021.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 541 reviews
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
586 reviews4,735 followers
May 23, 2021
This read like a bad FX show that's aiming to be "edgy" and "current," but one that gets cancelled after only one season because it's unbearable to watch.

This book focuses on the upper echelons of Washington D.C. society and it all starts with the brutal murders of a very important family. Someone breaks into the home of the Banks Family and tortures the three people at home before killing them. Their murders are truly grizzly and the premise of this book promises that those deaths set off a kind of chain reaction, rocking the foundation of this well-to-do suburb, not unlike Little Fires Everywhere.

But here's the thing: by the mid-way point in this book, the murders may as well have never happened. You would think there would be some kind of a mystery surrounding them since the book starts with the murders, but of course not. Instead, we spend our time with an overambitiously large cast of characters living and working in D.C., including a sex-addict senator and his desperate social climbing wife, a high-ranking military official and the son he expects to follow in his exact footsteps, and the teenage daughter of a powerful family and her reckless high school friends.

Each one of these families/groups has their own plotline, but because the author is trying to *say something* about Washington D.C. society in each one, none of their stories go anywhere interesting. On top of that, it seems like the author wanted the characters to be the focal point of the book, but all of them are one-dimensional and you can tell they were all imagined with the purpose of filling pre-prescribed roles based off of the laundry list of messages the author sought to communicate.

Now, most authors want to convey a grander message within their books. I think that's really important, actually. But this author seems to have forgotten that the story must also be interesting. The people need to act like nuanced human beings and not cardboard cutouts of stereotypical figures in D.C. that she hates (with good reason) and therefore wants to figuratively set fire to them in her book. Since it's not an interesting story and because she's trying to say too much with all these simultaneous plotlines centered around detestable characters, it comes off like 300-something pages of screaming: I HATE WASHINGTON D.C. AND EVERYONE WHO LIVES THERE. You have the right to feel that way, but can you expect readers to stay engaged when the story doesn't deliver?

Adding insult to injury, the writing is downright bad and it's as subtle as a wrecking ball. Every thought and feeling is inelegantly blurted out on the page. There is no room for a reader to interpret anything about a character's motivations or behavior because the author's done literally all the work of thinking for us.

She's clearly trying to demonstrate that the issues in D.C. run deep. Generations deep. But how she laid out these very complex social issues in such an on-the-nose way (the whole thing is a violation of "show, don't tell") was cringey and not at all effective.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,035 reviews48.5k followers
May 24, 2021
Christina McDowell was used to getting extraordinary gifts from her father, Washington lawyer Thomas Prousalis Jr. To celebrate her graduation from high school, she got a BMW. One Christmas morning, he gave her a Hermés Birkin bag. And then there was that time McDowell discovered Dad had given her $100,000 in credit card debt.

McDowell wanted to ask him about that little problem, but she didn’t know exactly where her father was, only that he would soon be assigned to a federal prison to serve a 57-month sentence for securities fraud. He was a convicted associate of Jordan Belfort, whom Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

For a young woman raised in the gold-leaf parlors of Washington, in a home just a few blocks from the Kennedys’ Hickory Hill estate, her family’s sudden disgrace and poverty ushered in an era of traumatic reevaluation. (And the Birkin bag was fake.) McDowell described that ordeal in her 2015 memoir, “After Perfect.”

Now, she’s back — and this time, it’s fictional. Sort of.

“The Cave Dwellers,” McDowell’s debut novel, takes its title from a local nickname for the Capital’s oldest and wealthiest families, folks who have moved in the shadows of D.C. society since their ancestors lived in caves. These are “the aristocratic bloodlines woven into the fabric of Washington,” McDowell writes. “They only socialize within their inner circle, which is impenetrable — turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round.” After reading this ruthless satire of their behavior, they probably can’t sue for slander, but they might want to beg for mercy.

The story opens with a terrifying crime that will remind. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Carole.
489 reviews109 followers
July 7, 2021
The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell takes the reader to Washington, DC for a close-up look at the so-called elite denizens who populate a city always in transition. The politicians may come and go but the upper-crust just keep on living their self-involved little lives, as they always have. We observe several families living life in their bubble, looking down on anyone who is not one of them. Their children are growing up with the same arrogance, in their private schools. The author knows of which she writes about as she grew up in the rarified air of Washington. As I read this book, I realized that this high society is made up of selfish, unkind and despicable people whose sole purpose is to pursue the same tired existence, generation after generation. The characters are the driving force in The Cave Dwellers, most of them being as horrible people as they can be. The more you read, the less you like them. There seems to be a lack of a storyline though, making this a somewhat difficult read. Thank you to Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and the author for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
760 reviews34 followers
November 23, 2020
I started out loving this book until the author hurried the story under endless names and characters. The author clearly has a purpose of uncovering the extreme white privilege that surround those who live in Washington DC. The inspiration was the story of a home invasion in posh, posh DC which became unspeakably brutal, killing the inhabitants, and the reaction of the people around it.

I am aware that I have a problem with books that are crowded, too many names, too many extraneous characters. McDowell brought this to new heights. One character, Elizabeth, called Bunny, but Lizbet by another friend. In one scene she brought in a virtual wagonload of students at their expensive private school. My head was spinning, trying to figure out who was who and who belonged to which family (many of them described in the book).

So, what starts as a great idea winds up muddled in a morass of characters. Sorry it was too much for me to untangle.

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,606 reviews2,051 followers
March 20, 2021
This is a good start. But this is one of those books that ends when the story is just getting interesting. It is biting, so willing to be harsh that it can actually throw you a bit. Books are rarely this straightforwardly mean, but people are. And that's part of the point. (It also opens with a very violent scene, FYI.) But this is more than "wow people in Washington are terrible," it's also trying to reckon with the classism and racism and misogyny that are the machine that keep Washington running, and this is where it can't quite hold itself all the way up. Because that is a very big task and McDowell has given it to Bunny Bartholomew, who is totally unqualified for it.

This is a book where (and I am absolutely not joking) one character says to another with total seriousness "But the children today don't even believe in capitalism!" There is not much subtlety to its satire, which is fine. There are lots of rich wives scheming with and against each other. This book is much more concerned with their role where they just stand back and reap all the benefits of the system while taking comfort in the fact that they are not the worst actors in it. It also weirdly lets them off the hook in a lot of ways, as satires go. Mostly it just looks at them, astonished that they exist, and continues on but it spends more time than it probably needs to doing this. This is a book about rich and corrupt Washingtonians but there is only one major adult male character (a "sex addicted" senator, obvi) and at first that makes you think that this is going to be all about a big scandal take-down (a la Bonfire of the Vanities) but it isn't. This is actually a relatively minor plot point at the end of the day, one of the piles and piles of mini-scandals that build over the course of the novel.

If there is a protagonist, it's teenage Bunny. Daughter of a wealthy family, some older money and some new, mostly in weapons and chemicals. Bunny is 17 and has just reached the point where she is realizing what her privilege actually is. This is all well and good but a 17 year old who's been so steeped in this her whole life is going to have a long road ahead of her finding her way out of it, and it's possible that her interest in leftist movements could be a short-term rebellion instead of a deeply felt principle. And this is the real issue with the book. Bunny is unprepared to really deal with this, and her progress can feel too fast for reality but too slow for the speed of the novel.

McDowell is open about how her own biography played into her decision to write this novel. (She's already written a memoir about her father, a Wall Street-er who went to prison for financial crimes.) She has a lot of justified rage and at times you can feel it dripping off the page. It just isn't entirely clear what her point is. This was clarified for me somewhat reading her Afterword where she talked about how much of it came after reading White Fragility. And that takes me back to how this is a good start. But it doesn't follow its ideas all the way through. Many of the characters are taken down by or about to be taken down by scandal by the end of the book, but there will just be another wave of them rising up to take the open spaces. And if she wants to consider how you take down this kind of system, there isn't much actual taking down happening here. You can sell out a person but what about selling out the system? It seems to be mostly concerned with the fact that these rich white women say they are good people when they clearly are not. I just need it to go further. If you want to write about breaking out of these systems, great. Or taking them down, great. Or just exposing what they really are, great. But this never quite felt like any of these. I was waiting for the big kicker and then it just never really happened.

This is a book where things are constantly happening, so it can certainly keep you turning pages. I had a hard time keeping all the rich white people straight, to be honest. Even once I remembered who was in what family I couldn't remember which family was dealing with what private scandal. It was a lot to juggle. (There was a family tree but my e-galley's version was too small to read, should be helpful for the final version tho.)
June 2, 2021
A small dog with a book

📚 Hello Book Friends! I have a dear friend who told me once that she reads a book up to the number of pages equal to 100 minus her current age before she decides not to finish it. The older she gets, the fewer pages she reads before she quits a book. Although I love this idea, I never had to use this trick until I started THE CAVE DWELLERS by Christina McDowell. I love the cover and by looking at it, I thought it would be an interesting book. Never judge a book by its cover, they say. Unfortunately, this one was just not for me. That does not mean that it is not for you too. Have a look and decide if you think you will like it.

#bookstadog #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #bookreview
Profile Image for Rene Saller.
351 reviews22 followers
May 29, 2021
McDowell obviously has good intentions. Yes, our criminal justice system is hopelessly unjust, and the one percent is a cancer. But this novel is shockingly bad, both on a sentence level and a plot level. I kept a running list on my Kindle of all the sentences that were truly egregious, and after a while I gave up because there were so many of them. McDowell thanks her editors in the acknowledgments, which makes me wonder how much worse the drafts must have been. She refers repeatedly to a certain character being gaslit, but *I* felt gaslit myself. I don't understand how this novel got published by an imprint of a major publisher and why it is garnering positive reviews from WaPo critics and the like, unless the literary industry is even more of a meaningless circle jerk than I suspected. (Maybe I'd rather not know: the irony of McDowell enjoying a different type of unearned privilege now, by lambasting the very system of unearned privilege that produced her, is too much for my poor prole brain.) At any rate, it sounds like McDowell is doing a lot of commendable work for restorative justice, and I salute her for that.
169 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2021
Having lived in the Washington area my entire life I had high expectations for this book. Alas, it is more salacious than substantial and frankly disappointing.
Profile Image for Jessica Ryan.
61 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2021
I’m actually so incredibly mad at myself for reading this entire book. By the halfway point I was already trying to formulate this review of a one star book.

I am a glutton for books about rich people; Gossip Girl, Crazy Rich Asians, Anna K, etc etc. They are my favorite form of escapism. Sure, some people hate the concept but I love it, give me all of them. The summary of The Cave Dwellers made it seem like it was one in the same with these types of books.

Instead, it was a book about horrible people with no redeeming qualities at all. Was this supposed to be satire? Was the point that rich people are terrible? Fine if so, but don’t market it as something else. There were too many characters and I didn’t like a single one. I couldn’t remember who anyone was and didn’t care about any of their story lines.

While the authors point may have been to have a rich girl try to grapple with her white guilt, it fell extremely flat while being overshadowed by 50 other storylines that were completely unnecessary. If I wanted to read about systemic racism and white fragility, I’ll read nonfiction or turn on the news.

Would not recommend.
Profile Image for Dianne.
1,558 reviews116 followers
June 10, 2021
Okay, I finally did finish it. Curiosity got the best of me.

DNF at 60%----Nothing new here. I didn't learn anything I didn't already know, and the story was cliched. I actually put this book down more than I had it in my hands.

Suppose you want a cliched look into the lives of White people in D.C. (political and rich *snort*) -this is the book for you. I can see and have always known that a certain segment of America has privileges that the rest of us don't (and I am White so when I say "US"I am talking about ALL races), and this book certainly points that out.

If you love cliches, tropes, and triteness about a certain segment of society, then this is the book for you.

If you are totally 'woke,' then this is the book for you.

If you like more characters and plot lines than Carter has pills, then this is the book for you.

I did a quick bit of research into this author, and I can certainly see why it was written the way it was.

I may go back and finish this book, but I doubt it.

*ARC supplied by ATTL/Edelweiss and the publisher.
Profile Image for Simonne Lambert.
294 reviews7 followers
April 13, 2021
An interesting story about power, wealth and white privilege in Washington. I didn’t much care for any of the characters and perhaps that was the author’s point in writing the book. None of these people are very likeable, except perhaps for Bunny who is trying to break out of the mold. I knew such a class system existed in the U.K. but I naively thought such a thing did not exist in the States - secret clubs and all. I could feel the author’s disdain for these people throughout the book and after reading the Author’s Note I can understand why. This is a well written book. Recommended for people who like to read about the ultra rich and powerful.
Thanks to NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Dana Weber.
Author 4 books19 followers
June 30, 2021
A well-designed cover and an interesting premise got me. Unfortunately, the experience was all downhill from there. The author has made it known that her strong ties and experiences derived from family experiences rooted in greed and privilege have led to this second novel and it is sad that any child pay the price of parents’ bad decisions. However, this book was full of agenda, generalizations and poor prose which made a story worth telling a watered down version. Her way of using a real tragedy, not related to her, to grab the attention of the reader in the first place was disturbing. Horrible ending.
Profile Image for Kim Berkshire.
164 reviews5 followers
July 5, 2021
Literary rubbish but appreciated the ''sidebars'' before specific chapters, i.e. Embassy Row, Washington National Cathedral, Suffragist Statue, The Mayflower, etc. which illuminated some D.C. inside history. THAT could have been an entire book I'd have enjoyed much more.
Profile Image for Emma Reid.
863 reviews27 followers
February 23, 2021
I'm torn in how I feel about this book. In one hand, it's a poignant novel exposing the lives of politicos in DC and their salacious exploits. On the other hand, it doesn't feel as if it does enough to serve as a cautionary tale. While white privilege is explored, not much of anything comes out of it and no comeuppance is dealt. At the end I'm left with so many loose threads in the storyline that I'm unsure if this was intentional by the author. However this is a compulsively readable novel that would be perfect for fans of Scandal, just beware of hanging chads.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Maureen Grigsby.
860 reviews
February 27, 2021
An interesting novel about entrenched power and wealth in Washington D.C. that is downright depressing. That said, it was a book that reflected young and old views of privilege and the damage it can do.
271 reviews12 followers
February 21, 2021
Could not put down this scathing portrayal of our finest in Washington DC. With historical inserts, this novel of the privileged is eye opening. With prejudice going back generations, the author makes you wonder if change is really possible...
Profile Image for Alex Navarrete.
15 reviews
July 23, 2022
Me entretuvo un rato pero en general la historia es aburrida y ninguno de los personajes me llamo la atención o me hice root for them. Aparte me molesta que los gringos piensen que el mundo gira alrededor de ellos!!!
Profile Image for Mary.
1,474 reviews496 followers
July 14, 2021

Welcome to the world of high society in Washington, DC! The Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell is a deep dive into what both kids and parents are like when you mix power and money, and it was very interesting indeed. No one is particularly likeable, shocker, and there is quite a large cast of these people, as well as many different viewpoints. The beginning starts off with a home invasion and to me it made it seem like there was going to be a mystery element, but instead, this is definitely straight-up literary fiction and more about greed and white privilege than the actual murders. I really appreciated the author's note at the start and it also helps set the stage, so you know going into it what the story is actually about. The most likeable character was probably Bunny, and she did kind of go sleuthing into what happened to the family by going to visit the boy the police arrest for it. This got us into a whole new ball of wax, and I really liked that the author got her book idea from both her life growing up, and the book White Fragility.

The character viewpoints also switch between adults and teenagers, and I loved that we got both aspects instead of just one or the other. There are so many people behaving badly, and this is a book stuffed full of social topics and things that will make you cringe. I could feel McDowell's animosity for this world through the pages, and it made me really want to read her memoir to get an idea of how she grew up. You can tell she knew what she was talking about and it felt like a very well-researched novel.

I also really enjoyed the audiobook which is narrated by Madeleine Maby. It would have been nice to have a full cast because of all the viewpoints, but I have to say that Maby handled it all like a champ. At times I would get confused about who was who, but I think if you kept a notebook with the names of everyone it would be much easier. I am really glad I had a physical copy on hand and would highly recommend having one too even if you do the audio. The biggest thing I didn't love was that I thought the end was incredibly abrupt and made The Cave Dwellers feel unfinished. I had that moment of "wait, it's over?" The pacing is also quite slow and at times the story was a bit confusing, but overall, I was still a fan of this book and will definitely be reading or listening to McDowell's memoir now. It is not going to be for everyone, but if you love literary fiction and timely novels, I would give it a try!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Tracey.
Author 6 books15 followers
April 3, 2021
Wow. It's a page-turner and you'll be up all night reading it. But........

There's nothing subtle here; it's a satire and none of the characters is particularly likable. The women are shallow social climbers, the men are selfish misogynists and the teenagers are miserable, spoiled brats. McDowell is a fabulous writer, but the "white-privilege" narrative consumes the plot. And I do mean CONSUMES. At one point a character asks, "Do you think the Banks family deserved to die? Do you think they had it coming?" There's a lot of this as the story progresses and it did not appeal to me.

There are so many characters that you'll need to refer to the chart at the front of the book. On the e-galley, this was tiny and I had to print it out to use it. I also found the end-of-chapter tidbits about Washington distracting; they pulled me out of the story and disrupted the momentum.

The "Cave Dwellers" are the DC Elite: the super-rich families who have lived in the city for generations. The opening scene is based on the "Mansion Murders" in 2015 (if you're local, you'll remember that a pizza box was used to convict the murderer). McDowell grew up in the area and her first book, AFTER PERFECT, is a memoir about her ultra-privileged life and the shock of finding out that her father is a fraud. I'd read anything McDowell writes. She's that talented. But this story was overwhelming in its agenda.

Thank you to NetGalley for an E-ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Brian Rothbart.
175 reviews5 followers
April 4, 2021
This is a hard book to rate, and I would probably rank it closer to 3.5. I like what Christina McDowell tried to do in “The Cave Dwellers”, but there is just too much going on. There are way too many characters and subplots and it is often hard to keep them all straight and how everyone is “related”. Also, there is no subtlety, McDowell hits the reader on the head with most of the issues that are prevalent in today’s society. I did “enjoy” this book, if that is the right word, I mean I hated most of the characters, but I did enjoy what McDowell was trying to accomplish, but it just needed to be toned down. However, it is a quick read and it made me want to keep turning the pages. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the book as much if it didn’t take place in DC and I was familiar with all of the places. However, I do think those that have enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld and Kristin Gore’s novels then you will most likely like this one.
Profile Image for Sheri.
57 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2021
Reading this book was like watching a show on the Bravo Network. The characters in this story are the most privileged people you would ever meet. Being so privileged has made them almost impossible to like at all. The problems that they have are nothing like the problems of the average person, therefore, they are really unlikable. There were also a ton of characters to keep track of, which did become rather confusing. At the heart of the book is a murder mystery. If this would have been the main theme of the book if would have been much more enjoyable. So, needless to say, there were a bunch of loose ends by the time the book ended which was very frustrating.
Profile Image for Rachel Moyes.
184 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2022
This is the worst book I've ever read, but I loved every minute of it (except for the parts featuring the Black man accused of murder. The way he was written was so absurd that I was actually offended by it.)

If you can tolerate an absurdly condescending omniscient narrator who continually describes characters as being wrapped in their own white privilege, you will get a totally juicy story with fun DC namedrops, and you may even accidentally have an introspective experience :)
Profile Image for WM D..
381 reviews9 followers
June 12, 2022
The cave dwellers was a good book. I really enjoyed the characters. The book tells the story of the wealthy and the elite families who live in Georgetown/ kalaroma. Every page you turn you see money and more money. A must read for anyone who likes fiction books
Profile Image for Susan.
309 reviews11 followers
May 15, 2021
The Cave Dwellers is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in quite some time. Set in Washington, DC, it’s a fictional insight into the dark side of the lives of the rich and powerful; the movers and shakers, elected or not, in DC. Having spent 25 years of my adult life in DC as a career civil servant, I was delighted to recognize where people were. In addition, the author has done extensive research about DC history which is graciously shared and cited.

The story begins with a tragic fire, probably arson, in which an entire family of the DC elite are killed. (The family, as it turns out, with another, are implicated in toxic waste dumping in multiple states that has killed an untold number of people, most of them poor Black people, who, it is revealed later on, have been paid off by the company’s owners and required to sign non-disclosure agreements..)

There is too much going on in this book to discuss the story except in the broadest terms, lest I reveal spoilers. There are multiple layers and players, however, that can be teased out without going into much story details.

First, we encounter the blatant social climbing wives, whose husbands, while important, dwell quietly in the background, in the world of deals and money, except for one, who is a US Senator (if you believe what you read in newspapers about elected officials abusing their power to keep women subservient you will get the idea). These women spend their time pretending to like each other while at the same time competing with and trying to dig up dirt on the others. Although they wear fashionable clothes, carry very expensive bags (brand always provided, - so costly I would not even venture into the department where they are sold), and are fond of Hermès scarves and extravagant, ostentatious jewelry, if you imagine the Hermès scarves tied around their heads like Grandma’s babushka, you will understand that they are gossiping biddies.

Then there are the children of these entitled families. They all go to a private school on the grounds of the National Cathedral (an homage to the schools actually there - St. Alban’s and The Cathedral School), live to get wasted and post scandalous videos, and are so tightly locked into the bubble of White privilege that they know nothing about people “other” than them. One who stands out as wanting to learn about Black lives and why they matter and is desperate to escape the high fences of their own society is Bunny. She visits the young Black man arrested for the fire that killed her friend and her eyes are opened.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it is horrifying. The writing and character development, even though many of the characters and situations are purposely caricatures, is terrific, and the dark river that runs through the book reaches a sad and unfortunate climax.

I would love to read more by this author. I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley.
May 26, 2021
This book is about a group of families that are considered “high society” in Washington, D.C. Following a wide age range of characters, this story felt to me like a combination of House of Cards and a darker side of Gossip Girl.

The first chapter was so intense that I thought, “wow, this is going to be good.” Unfortunately, that was the only time I was truly excited about this book. Although there were bright spots—some chapters where I felt truly engaged—those moments were few and far between. Aside from those morsels, though, I found the content very disturbing and it also was difficult tracking the characters.

Overall, this book just didn’t work for me. But someone who likes dark political/crime stories might enjoy it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Gallery Books for this e-ARC I’m exchange for an honest review.

⚠️ This book is dark and graphic. Please read descriptions and research to make sure this is the right fit for you.
Profile Image for Ginger.
430 reviews290 followers
August 10, 2021
Sheesh. This book was rough… and I also couldn’t put it down.

Hands down, the best part is this book is the cover.

In the end though, I wanted more from this book. The characters were, without exception, utterly depraved. Similar vibes to Little Fires Everywhere in its attempted reckoning with privilege but McDowell didn’t quite pull off lending any one of them believable motives.

The characters were one dimensional and I especially didn’t like the third person future tense she would dip into to direct the reader to a character’s drive. “Only in the days to come will Bunny begin to question the lot in life she’s been so freely given.” “A complex dichotomy living deep inside of her that [Cate is] still too young to understand.” I’m no writer, but it felt like a cheat against the age old writing advice to show, not tell.

It takes a great deal of skill to write a nuanced unlikable character and in a book filled with them, she just didn’t pull this off.

The best part to me was the between chapter interludes where she shared DC history. I could have read an entire book of those and I’ll probably pick up her memoir, hoping maybe this author will stick to nonfiction from now on. She clearly has a knack for a specific brand of attention to detail that might make for better journalism than fiction.
Profile Image for Deborah.
918 reviews21 followers
June 17, 2021
A bunch of entitled, privileged white people, part of the Washington DC power structure, behaving badly. The novel starts with the gruesome murders in their mansion of an entire family—husband, wife and teenage daughter (and their housekeeper)—extremely but quietly wealthy old-money types. Of course this sets the entire neighbourhood on edge, but an arrest is quickly made, of a young black man. Most are happy to believe the right person has been scooped up, but another teenager classmate (at a tony private school) of the murdered girl is not so sure, and starts to do a little digging on her own. It’s through these teenage private school kids that we meet the cast of characters: the bullying Armed Forces Chief of Staff and his family, the TV network anchor and family, the sex-addicted Senator, his social-climbing wife and his daughters, etc., etc. Good thing there’s a character list at the front of the book, because these characters aren’t well-differentiated and it really helped me keep track. This is a broad but shallow capture, a satire that stays pretty much on the surface, with few surprises. And if you like murders solved with really clear-cut answers, hmmm. I think we found out by the end who was responsible, but (probably just me being dumb) it’s left up in the air.
Profile Image for Julie Pint.
610 reviews
May 19, 2021
The book holds a lot of promise, but it leaves me feeling very much left wanting. The premise is fantastic - looking at the life of the privileged living in DC from the eyes of a group of mostly teens. However, there is so much effort to infuse the idea of white privilege that it takes away focus from the story. The author goes so far to drive that point home that she leaves footnotes that aren’t really connected to the storyline at the end of each chapter in an attempt to make the reader feel bad. It is a very interesting look at the politics of DC mired in the authors desired need to make one become part of a culture that intends to make woke culture okay. The three stars are for the actual storyline. Thanks to NetGalley & Goodreads for the advance read.
Profile Image for KO.
88 reviews
June 11, 2021
"His mother ran a local Sunday school, while his father was busy locking up Black and brown people."

I'm not even going to try and give this to a resell store, this is going straight in the trash where it will be truly unique, as the trash is filled with refuse that at some point at least offered me an iota of utility.

The one-dimensional characters are plagiarized from a 14-year-old's comprehension of stereotypes in this country.

If you're interested in reading a 329-page racist virtue signal with no plot, this is for you.
I'm not sure how this book got published, let alone how this book has such glowing reviews. I wish I could send my book back. This is a poorly researched, pathetic, and disappointing attempt at a novel.

It is instead a blatant attempt at race-baiting and warmongering. Shame on Scout Press and shame on Christina McDowell.

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