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Where Sleeping Girls Lie

By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Reviewed by Tehani Croft

Wealth, privilege, and tragic backstory underpin the characters and events in Where Sleeping Girls Lie, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s second novel. There is a strong sense of purpose at the heart of the novel, but the extreme societal disconnect may mean it’s not as accessible as the author intended.
The narrative is primarily told from the perspective of Sade Hussein, whose journey to join her classmates at the elite Alfred Nobel Academy boarding has clearly been a dark one, though the reader does not know all the twists and turns until much later in the story. Sade comes from a wealthy family but has been home schooled her whole life due to the control of her apparently toxic father. With his death leaving her an orphan, she takes ownership of her future and enrols in the Academy, which throws her very quickly into the middle of intrigue and mystery, with a missing roommate and strange behaviour from staff and students. But Sade’s own behaviour is unusual, and her secrets might also be part of the puzzle.
This book grabs you from the outset, with the enigma of Sade’s past looming large and drawing in the reader’s attention, and a supernatural element overlaying the contemporary storyline. A swiftly introduced set of characters in Sade’s fellow students and some teachers broaden the possibilities of conflict, and Sade’s missing roommate soon becomes almost a side quest in a larger story.
Unfortunately, while the book starts with high levels of intrigue, the actual mystery splinters and somewhat drags through the majority of the book, as the author tries to draw out the conspiracy and batten down on themes of sexual coercion and toxic masculinity. These are absolutely important themes for this readership, but for me, it was somewhat lacking in the execution, and due to the excess of wealth and class structures portrayed, it could be seen as too detached from most readers’ everyday reality to hit home in the way the author hoped. A tighter plot, with fewer red herrings and a more cohesive through line of story may have alleviated some of these issues and avoided the deeply expositional final chapters that info-dump all over the ending in order to wrap up the various threads.
Despite these qualifications, this is definitely not a bad book, and there are some great ideas, interesting and diverse characters, and fun banter-y dialogue present. I had no trouble powering through to the end to find out what happened and why, and I was particularly interested in getting to know Sade’s backstory, which underpins so much of the book. I think this will appeal to lovers of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series and similar, but a bit of perseverance may be needed in the somewhat saggy middle.
Teaching Guide
Usborne,  April 2024
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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