The girl in the title of The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks is Wendy Geller who is found strangled in Central Park after the night of a party. Newspaper headlines cry "Life of a Party Girl Ends in Violence." But her once best friend, Rain, knows Wendy was more than just a party girl. Rain, because of her speech impediment, is the target of bullying at her exclusive New York high school. Since Wendy does not come from old money she is a target as well. Unlike the quiet Rain, Wendy fights back the bullying by seducing her tormentors’ boyfriends. The story is told in first person from Rain’s point of view as she recalls the thoughtful and the not so thoughtful side of Wendy. In flashbacks Rain remembers how she and Wendy became friends. Rain still finds herself using Wendy’s words of encouragement as inspiration to overcome her insecurities related to speech. “Cleft palate. Big deal….But you need to forget about that and speak up, girl!” Hanging out with Wendy boosts Rain’s social life in a sense; she begins going to parties and because she is quiet she becomes the sounding board for the very kids who bullied her at one point. Rain was at the same party as Wendy the night before she is murdered so she has a hunch about who may have last been with Wendy. As she digs through gossip about Wendy, speaking to her few friends and to those who openly hated her, Rain is determined to salvage what’s left of Wendy’s reputation by finding out the truth behind her friend’s death and the identity of the murderer.
The book is fast paced and a good traditional whodunit with twists, but some expert mystery fans may be able to solve the identity of the murderer. Despite this flaw in the climax, Rain is a convincing sleuth, the relationship between her and Wendy is realistic as is her resolve to prove Wendy was the victim of a crime and did not deserve to die such a heinous death. Due to the nature of the theme, this book is in our Older Teen section.