Girl in Snow
by Danya Kukafka
Lucinda Hayes was a beautiful, popular girl.
Blonde and in possession of a perfectly toned and tanned body, she spent her days babysitting little Ollie down the street or stretching her legs into first and fifth position in ballet class downtown. Her little sister looked up to her with the kind of stars in her eyes that you can only have when you’re innocent and young, the idolization pure and complete. Her parents were proud of her, and Lucinda reveled in their adoration. Having bypassed the awkward teenage years and gone straight into beauty queen status, Lucinda traveled in the right circles and had everything at her immaculately manicured fingertips. She was the girl everyone wanted to be or be with.
So, how did she end up in the snow, her neck twisted and broken, her face just as lovely with drops of blood on it as it had been with the rays of sunshine pushing eagerly across its angles and planes? How did she end up so discarded; an angelic doll left frozen in time?
In Danya Kukafka’s debut novel, the layers of three people are thoughtfully peeled away with such a precise action, that it is almost surgical in nature. Each narrative slowly shows readers what lies just underneath the surface and ends up delving all the way into a person’s core, luxuriating in all of the gory and honest glory that lies there. The eerie voice shared between the perspectives is raw and unique, and Kufafka’s talent is one to be watched, as it seems to lie in wait like a viper in a desert pit.
Cameron Whitely is stuck in the space between awkward teenager and reluctant man, and is steadily haunted. His father, a former police detective, skipped town after a scandalous and abusive encounter with a woman, and the event left marks on his son that have fed into Cameron’s very veins and cemented themselves into his bloodstream. He cannot escape his terrors or the things inside of him that leave him tangled and feeling unworthy and unattractive. He has his means of coping, and one of them is slipping out at night to silently observe the surroundings of his small Colorado town. With a backdrop of snowcapped mountains and dreary low-lying clouds, Cameron sees people as they are never meant to be seen. He watches them through their windows like a statue set in stone out in the black midnight, and he knows them better than perhaps they are known by the ones they share a home with. But Lucinda is different. She is as pure as the driven snow, as unique as the individual snowflakes that flutter down and melt in his hands. Her death has changed him, and has set his life upon a different path.
Jade Dixon-Burns used to tolerate Lucinda. There used to be a time when they’d sit on couches in basements and share easy conversations over sweating glasses of sweetened lemonade while their baby sisters pretended to be princesses or cowgirls racing along the plains of a dusty town. There also used to be a time when Zap was her best friend, the one who knew her from the inside out, and the one to whom she could run to when her mother drank too much and came looking for a way to release her tension upon the tender skin of Jade’s arms and legs. Mrs. Dixon-Burns had a way of slapping her face in just the right way that it would sting and leave a mark for the duration of the evening, but all signs of the disgrace would disappear by morning, allowing everyone to believe it was all a figment of their imaginations. But Zap knows the truth. He knows Jade. He knows exactly where every constellation is up in the sky above them and how many stars make up each one. Or rather, Zap used to know these things about her. But the day Lucinda took Zap from her was the day Jade began to hate her beautifully blonde neighbor, and the day she wished and prayed and imagined the very worst things happening to the girl with the too-perfect smile.
Officer Russ Fletcher is shocked but thrilled when the call comes in late at night, requesting him at the scene. “There’s a body,” was all he needed to hear, and his blood began pumping so hard he was sure his heart would explode inside his chest and bleed all the way down his freshly pressed uniform. When the murder investigation and the vengeful town turns it’s eyes upon a new suspect, the son of his ex-partner, Russ doesn’t know what to do. And it doesn’t help that the kid has the same eyes as his partners’, and it doesn’t help that all he can seem to do is live in the past and remember endless nights on the beat when they would sit out on the hills, sharing cups of coffee and playing cards and sharing secrets. He has a case to solve but how can he? How can he betray the only real person he has ever cared for?
Girl in Snow propels readers down three parallel paths in a veritable snowball effect, all leading towards one person – Lucinda Hayes. The secrets people allow out in the open when they think no one can see them or that no one is listening are the very things that Kukafka slices open and allows to bleed freely. I give the novel 5 out of 5 stars, as I was drawn into this drama instantly and stayed enraptured until the final climax. The book was resolved beautifully and cleanly, but not at all as expected. I respected the way the author made the uncomfortable and complex pieces of each character known in such an elegant style, allowing every perspective to be human and real.
Categorized as a young adult book due to the ages of the characters, I am comfortable recommending this novel to readers over the age of 15, as there is a small amount of sexual content. It borders on the darker side of young adult fiction, and the small amount of sexual content does not in any way overshadow the overall story.