Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.
But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.
Going into this book, I thought it was a mystery and perhaps that expectation dampened my experience a bit. Grit is about a girl in a small town that is filled with secrets, but does not want to admit it. Like her cousin who seems like the epitome of Good Girl, or the people who cheat their way into money, or secrets that make a person disappear. Darcy hates her town, and can’t wait to get away from it, but life is difficult and unlike her cousin, she cannot set aside money for her future. So she lives for the parties, the small pleasures and working hard and earning money for herself.
Most of the book takes place during the summer before her senior year, with her working as a farmhand in the fields, raking berries and competing against the town’s resident dudebro for a name on the leader-board. Besides the mystery of the events of a year ago that led to a girl’s disappearance and assumed murder, the plot is sort of aimless. If this was a coming of age story, I did not see much in the way of character development, except perhaps Darcy finally realizing that some secrets are not hers to keep. She may make bad decisions but she owns up to them in the end, and confronts people who need to be confronted. In a way, she is fierce, but it takes her time to stand up.
The writing is impressive but there are problems with pacing. The first half is too slow for my liking and I was further dismayed that it was going to focus on day-to-day minutae than solving the mystery. There are elements of racism and otherness depicted in the novel, mostly surrounding the disappearance. Most of the town people suspect the migrant workers who come during harvest season to be responsible; this issue is called out by one character, too. There’s also slut-shaming and mention of statutory rape, the former not resolved much and the latter was resolved but as a after note. Overall, it is a good read but not the kind I was hoping for.