“They say only the good die young, but that’s just a stupid like in a song we used to sing.”

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They Wish They Were Us is the absolute perfect title for a YA mystery thriller that will leave you thinking, “thank god I’m not them.” Jessica Goodman seamlessly introduces us to a cast of characters that you will instantly feel a little unsure about. It’s impressive how she made me understand them despite their morally gray personas, all while building up a mystery “whoactuallydunit?” plot in the background.

Our main character Jill is dealing with the pressures that someone feels to fit in, because it seems better than the alternative of being left out. The pressures of any high schooler to do well, because someone is depending on them to do so. Add on to that the fact that the boy who admitted to murdering her best friend 3 years ago, is suddenly claiming he’s innocent.

Yeah. This one is a ride. I honestly enjoyed that it took time to understand Jill’s motivations in this story. This book doesn’t move at a quick pace by any means. It takes time to explore the prep school experience from the perspective of someone who knows the cost of fitting in and introduces you to The Players and other morally gray characters in Gold Coast.
Jumping from the past and present POV of Jill, subtle clues to the mystery are dropped and layers are built up to show us who Jill truly is. I will say that some of the transitions between past and present were rocky to navigate, but by the end I sort of adjusted to them.

All that being said, I thought that this was an entertaining read. I do feel that it focuses more on Jill and her friends involvement with The Players, and in the Gold Coast community in general. How they navigate and the choices they’ve had to make along the way. The mystery is important, obviously, but the stakes feel pretty mild considering the crime has already been committed. That’s all I really want to say without spoiling, but I highly recommend for anyone who thinks they would enjoy a mash up of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl. I know that many people hate when books are compared to other series, but I honestly feel like that combination perfectly describes the overall vibe and bones of this story.