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  • Mandy McHugh

They Never Learn, Layne Fargo: A Review

Layne Fargo is a new author for me, but with the praises of some of my favorites, a stellar cover, and interesting premise, I couldn't wait to dive in.

Scarlett is a killer out for revenge. Her targets? Men who take attack women and get away with it. Carly is starting her freshman year at Gorman. When she interrupts a frat boy taking advantage of her roommate, she's determined to protect her from him. In this dual timeline perspective, we follow Scarlett as she navigates through the boys club of academia and Carly's attempts to help her roommate deal with assault. What happens next is truly an explosion of crossroads. Without giving too much away, this book pleasantly surprised me. I've read half a dozen books this year with this type of revenge plot, and I'm wary of execution. They can come off preachy or overkill, and instead of focusing on the important issues, they tend to veer toward revenge justification. Fargo, however, handled the topic of sexual assault, particularly in a campus setting, with grace and practicality, showing the psychological, physical, and emotional ramifications for all involved. It was refreshing to read a narrative that tackled the difficult process of reporting, the challenges young college women face when trying to report a crime, and how helpless the victim and the victim's support circle can feel. What Fargo does best, however, is the interwoven plot lines, and I was thrilled to see the direction she takes the second half of the book. Not a procedural, as the detectives are supporting cast, but we see how a murder investigation can complicate the plans of a killer bent on justice. Character development was well executed and diverse, and I loved seeing how each character was evolving through the story. I like my endings ambiguous, not wrapped in neat little bows with the future course set out before me, and Fargo did an excellent job of bringing everything together in a way that made sense and didn't push the realm of disbelief. I loved Scarlett and Carly, their internal conflict, and the way they viewed the world. Overall, They Never Learn is a thrilling, twisty, revenge thriller with a strong female cast and important topics that deserve every inch of space in the market. Fargo's writing is crisp, clean, and effortless, and I'd recommend to anyone looking for a psychological suspense with a killer hook. Big thanks to Gallery/Scout Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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