The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey book review

The List of Suspicious Things was one of the first and most recommended books when I asked my Twitter followers which book I should read in 2024. Therefore, considering it wasn’t even out yet and these were opinions just based on those who had read the proof and it wasn’t even released to the majority of the public yet.

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The List of Suspicious Things tells the story of young Miv and her friend Sharon as they attempt to find out who the Yorkshire Ripper is in 1979 via the medium of lists. Her Aunty uses lists for everything and so she thinks if she uses lists, it’ll help her organise the people and places she think could be suspect.

The List of Suspicious Things plot – 4.5/5

The plot of The List of Suspicious Things is quite an interesting one to study. There weren’t really any moments where it was at a break-neck pace. For the majority of the book, it read like quite a calm coming-of-age story about two friends who, as they grow older, begin to grow apart. However, there are then some moments later on in the book which really turn this into a much more mature story.

Jennie Godfrey does a fantastic job of managing to portray the thoughts and life of a young girl during the 70s/80s. It not only immerses you in the story but gives you a fascinating look into the thoughts of someone much younger during the time of the Ripper.

Godfrey tells a story of a child who’s life is not perfect, whose parents and home life aren’t solid and comforting and who seeks comfort in the form of her friends and keeping herself busy with the list. It’s a very grown up telling of a young person during a dark time and a book that repeatedly reminds you what it was like to be young – relationships, family, admiring other people’s houses and families, school, bullies and so much more. It captures the essence of British childhood almost perfectly.

The List of Suspicious Things characters – 4.75/5

Telling a story about such a dark matter from the view of a young person can be so incredibly difficult – especially if it’s been a while since you were the age you write of. However, Godfrey not only does a fantastic job of writing in such a way that feels believable, but she’s built some genuinely loveable characters around it too.

Miv, our main character, is kind but naïve. Her friend Sharon is a little more sceptical and less afraid to say what she thinks. The shopkeeper Omar is a kind-hearted man who values the importance of growing up in a safe place and just wants the best for his son after his mother’s death. There are bullies in The List of Suspicious Things too and not just cliché bullies, but those where it’s noted by multiple people how disturbing they seem and how their actions are only partially a result of their surroundings.

This story doesn’t just tell of young people either, there are some very mature topics covered in the book too include domestic abuse and under age abuse – two topics I genuinely didn’t think were going to be included but were dealt with in a mature and realistic way.

Godfrey has written about a real town with real characters with real lives and who undertake real actions, I swear. But they’re not. They’re fictional. But that’s just a testament to Godfrey’s ability to write characters you vouch for.

The List of Suspicious Things final rating – 4.75/5

I’m always nervous about a book being overhyped when it’s recommended as much as The List of Suspicious Things was, but this book deserves the hype. If you’re looking at a tick list of what makes great a great novel, this book would tick them all. You’ve got loveable characters, hateable characters; you’ve got shocking moments, you’ve got a wholesome story that also covers some serious mature topics and you’ve got an ending that so quickly breaks and mends your heart, you come out traumatised. I already know The List of Suspicious Things will feature on my “Top Books of the Year list” already and it’s only February and you should consider it a must-read for 2024!

Buy a copy of The List of Suspicious Things

One thought on “The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey book review

  • Martin Dukes

    This sounds great. As someone who grew up in that period I should be particularly alert to the situational nuances of it.

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