Books: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (2017) Review

roanoke girls by amy engel review

First off, I’d like to apologise for the lack of content here recently; my personal and professional life has been rather ‘full’ shall we say, and I’ve not found anywhere near as much time as I’d have liked to create posts for this blog. I’m making it one of my priorities to keep up with A Literary Cocktail from now on, so keep checking back as I’m determined to make this little blog better than ever before!

One of my favourite things to read is book reviews, and being a massive book nerd myself, I am going to include lots more of these from now on. You can head over to my Books page for a full list of featured book reviews, lists and suggestions, but for now, I’m going to tell you about one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve got my hands on this year….

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (2017)

The Roanoke Girls is the first adult novel to be written by YA (young adult) author Amy Engel, a shocking, seductive and secretive book full of taboos and twisted family dynamics.


The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them which is never spoken. Every girl either runs away, or dies.’

The novel is narrated by Lane, a Roanoke girl who ran away, yet has to revisit the Roanoke home when her cousin, Allegra, goes missing. In searching for what has happened to her cousin, Lane discovers what it truly means to be a Roanoke girl, and why every other girl has either run away or died.

What is the secret of the Roanoke girls? Without giving too much away, an easy way to describe Engel’s novel is a literary Flowers in the Attic, yet it is so much more than that. It’s a dark modern gothic, set in the American south, heavy with imagery of hot summers, youthfulness and the claustrophobia of a small community. It is a tale of the darkest family secrets and the horror of what goes on behind closed doors.

Though the ‘secret’ of the Roanoke girls is alluded to often, and is given away fairly early on, it is not explicitly stated until later on in the novel, and it is interesting to see how the characters’ personalities develop and their actions become more disturbing over time. This is, truly, a disturbing book – but that is clearly Engel’s intention.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Roanoke Girls, the book pure escapism at its finest, and though the novel is somewhat problematic in its portrayal of the female characters as victims of the male gaze, Engel is certainly excellent at creating an entertaining and exciting plot, and sometimes that is enough. I look forward to Engel’s future work and I secretly hope it’s as disturbing as The Roanoke Girls.