Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “A Psalm For Lost Girls” by Katie Bayerl. If you don’t like spoilers, click the back button now!
I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “A Psalm For Lost Girls” by Katie Bayerl! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Tess da Costa is a saint — a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official.
Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted – overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again. The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for: a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping.”
This book contains heavy Christian/Catholic themes, discussions of religion that may be uncomfortable to some readers, mentions of murder and sex offenders, and kidnapping. Anyone uncomfortable with this content may want to skip this book.
Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars
The reason I put up a content warning for the Christian/Catholic themes in this book is because various discussions of these themes are very explicit and/or are vital to the plot. Much of the main plot centers around Callie trying to prove to the rest of the town that her sister, Tess, is not a saintly figure, but a regular human. Tess’ character is contested, with revelations in the chapters from Tess’ diary that she’s had sex with Danny (her secret boyfriend) and actually doubts her Christian faith, to Callie and Tess’ mother being incredibly conservative and devoted to her faith, as well as how she and the rest of her family appears in front of the rest of the churchgoers. Characters have discussions whether certain events are miracles, or just a stroke of luck.
This speculation of Tess’ sainthood was both well-executed and poorly-executed. I could see how the miracles and Tess’ appearance of being saintly put a toll on Tess herself mentally and emotionally as revealed in her journal, as well as the other characters, but I don’t know what other development this plot point gave them other than a ton of angst.
However, I think that the grief of how losing Tess affected the characters, when combined with all of the religious speculation, was well-executed. The potential of Tess being a saint brought some hope to some characters, while others, like Callie and Danny, reacted in their own way because they were people that personally knew Tess. I liked reading how the grief of Tess clashed with the huge hopes and beliefs that the other townspeople had in Tess being a potential saint, and how it impacted all of the characters on an emotional level.
Plot Development: 2 out of 5 stars
I felt that the plot’s pace could be better in general. It felt very slow in the middle, only to rush the last third of the book. The main plot too-abruptly shifted from the saintly speculation to figuring out the mystery behind the once-missing-now-found girl, Ana, about halfway through the book. I think this abrupt shift is due to a lack of proper pacing. Had the mystery behind the missing girl been explored more in the first half, rather than constantly focusing on Callie and Tess and Tess’ speculated sainthood, there would be more time to lead up to what really happened behind Ana’s disappearance and it would not feel so rushed.
Romance Development: 1 out of 5 stars
The established previous romance for Tess and Danny was decently-written, but could use more detail their overall relationship. The reader only sees real glimpses of Tess and Danny’s romancing each other in the few diary entries in the book, but they are mostly well-written moments.
I thought that the romance between Callie and Danny was not well-executed. Much of the romantic tension is between Callie’s memories of how she and Tess feel about Danny, and how Danny himself reacts and acts in response. I could sense the love-triangle aspect between the three, but it felt very vague. As for Callie and Danny’s romance, I felt like they were better off as friends rather than pursuing romance, especially since they’re still grieving over the loss of Tess during the events of the book.
Overall, I’m rating this book 2.5 out of 5 stars!
This rating is due to a lack of character development and the badly-executed romance.. I don’t recommend this book for anyone uncomfortable with heavy Christian/Catholic/religious themes, but I do think the book does a good job of exploring the characters and the grief over losing someone close.
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Please note that I won’t be posting any more book reviews until the New Year (2021!), but you can look forward to a couple bonus posts headed your way during this month!