Review: The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano

Title: The Girl She Used To Be
Author: David Cristofano
Pages: 284
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: March 19, 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Personal Copy

Moving from place to place and taking on identity after identity is all that Melody Grace McCartney has ever known. Twenty years ago, after witnessing a mob murder, her family agrees to provide the FBI with their testimony and are shoved into the witness protection program. After years of moving at the first signs of exposure and dealing with the murder of her parents, Melody finds solace in the only constant in her life, math. The catalyst for the current relocation is Melody's (aka May, Karen, Anne, and a number of other unmemorable names) boredom and discontentment with her current life as a math teacher. Thus begins a fast-paced adventure featuring a U.S. Marshall, the son of a mobster, and Melody's search for her who she is and what she wants do with her life.

The debut novel from author David Cristofano was an easy read, which I completed in about a day. I was initially drawn to the story because the author writes about the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC), of which I knew relatively little, and I thought this would provide some insight into the mind of those who need protection. Melody's charactization as confused and frustrated with the system meant to protect her came across as genuine, although I couldn't quite understand why she kept intentionally blowing her cover multiple times. A couple of slip-ups I can understand, but more than half a dozen times?

Before beginning this novel, I was very interested in reading a woman's perspective written by a man. Too often males use the stereotypical blonde hair, big eyes, 'delicate' formula, so I wanted to see Cristofano's take. Here is where I thought the novel split. The first third of the book kept Melody fairly realistic, but after that it started a downward spiral. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say I couldn't suspend my belief to accept some of the plot. Overall, the storyline did feel unique, and the casual writing style kept me turning page after page to see what happens to her next. While I wouldn't necessarily call this chick-lit, The Girl She Used To Be definitely straddled the line between contemporary fiction and a stereotypical romance. I don't regret having read it, but I can't say I'd recommend it either.

Rating: 3/5