Review: The Vale Girl by Nelika McDonald

Title: The Vale Girl

Author: Nelika McDonald

Published: PanMacmillan August 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from August 08 to 09, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy TheReadingRoom/Pan Macmillan}

My Thoughts:

A story of secrets, lies, ugly truths and the ways in which the past haunts the present, The Vale Girl is a stunning debut by Nelika McDonald. When fifteen year old Sarah Vale, the illegitimate daughter of an alcoholic prostitute, goes missing, the residents of Banville are indifferent. In the absence of the small town’s compassion, teenage Tommy Johns, determined not lose another person whom he loves, pushes Sergent Henson to investigate.

The narrative shifts between the first person voice of Sarah and the third person viewpoints of Tommy, Sergent Henson and Graham Knight. We learn of Sarah’s mother’s tragic past, Tommy’s absent father and Graham’s thwarted love. As the days pass with no sighting of Sarah the investigation reveals the secrets of Banville belied by the gaiety of the impending annual Grevillea Festival.

“The main street of Banville was very pretty, and it was easy to see how visitors could be seduced by her. But it still surprised Henson how few people ever drifted off the tourist trail and into the back streets, where the true heart of Banville was….Where the locals actually lived and ate and fought and played and slept, it was just an ordinary town, plain and dull. And in ordinary towns, there were broken things, ugly things, desolate and deserted things, and people who were all those things too.” p59

Tension builds as the fate of Sarah remains unclear. While Henson speculates she may be the victim of a local bully who has seemingly fled town, Tommy comes to suspect Graham, with whom Sarah has never felt comfortable. McDonald has us wavering between our suspicions of these men, questioning their motivations and desperate to find the missing girl we have come to care about.

McDonald’s observations of the town and its residents are sharp and insightful, burrowing beneath the appearance of respectability and responsibility. The writing is evocative and the atmosphere unsettling, emphasising the intrigue.

The Vale Girl is a thought provoking study of a community and its outsiders, of parents and their children, of ruined dreams and the desperate grasp of hope. A compelling and impressive debut I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Available to Purchase from

Pan Macmillan I BoomerangBooks I Booktopia I Amazon Kindle

via Booko



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle Walker
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 17:05:43

    Great review Shelleyrae. I loved this book



  2. Susan
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 18:13:04

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Vale Girl, just wanted to keep turning the pages to find out what was really happening…



  3. Danielle
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 18:23:40

    I have this one to read and I’m soooooo excited. Have heard the best things (and I *love* that cover!)



  4. The Australian Bookshelf
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 22:15:59

    I thought this was a fantastic debut too Shelleyrae. Great review 🙂



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