“A portrait of the artist as a young woman. . . The twin demons of epistemological truth and metaphorical accuracy are her true gods and they are jealous ones... The nature of female friendship, of the closeness of ‘best friends,’ and the importance of friendship to the evolution of personality, are visible here as in few other books I have read. . . THE DEAD GIRL stands as a notable model of the female Bildungsroman.

--Helen Vendler, The New York Review of Books
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“I like this book better than IN COLD BLOOD.  It is more honest, more credible, more frightening, and more instructive.  THE DEAD GIRL is groundbreaking, new and startling, and will surely have a long life in literature.”

--Harold Brodkey

“One of the best modern books about murder and its undying effects.”

--Mikal Gilmore

“As with Conrad's MARLOW, there is a sense of an untellable story, a story that resists any resolution and completion…A narrator's awareness of the complications of narrative is occasionally present in Didion and in Faulkner, but Thernstrom explicitly brings a philosophical sophistication of narrative..raising these concerns to a meta-level of awareness more powerfully...”

--John Hollowell
Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
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“Melanie Thernstrom’s THE DEAD GIRL is a beautiful instance of what she herself calls ‘elegies to reality.’  Its passionate sincerity has been redeemed and purged into art by the agile artifice that she knows is essential for elegy.  THE DEAD GIRL is an eloquent memorial to a slain friend, and it is also a remarkable instance of narrative grace and perspective.”

--Harold Bloom

An extraordinary book. . . exquisitely written meditations.  Melanie Thernstrom inhabits her book in an entirely original voice, struggling to make sense not only of what happened, but of how to tell it.  You will feel changed by hearing her voice and carry it around for a long time.”

--Louise Bernikow, Cosmopolitan

“In the tangle of Thernstrom’s unflinchingly honest narrative is a profoundly unsettling portrait of privilege punctuated by despair.”

--People Magazine

“A vastly gifted writer”


“A powerful exhaustive memoir of the writer’s grief and recovery”

--New York Magazine

“Raises important questions about the nature of reality”

--San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

“What a dark, magical book!  THE DEAD GIRL reads like the most convincing of fairy tales, one where childish fears give way to the grimmest of adult realities.  Part memoir, part whodunit, this is a passionately self-examined account of a lost friend and the effect of that loss.  In its vaulting ambition and its fierce, unironic wish to create meaning, this book is a welcome departure from much of contemporary writing.”

--Daphne Merkin, Washington Post Book World

“A powerful moving book. . . THE DEAD GIRL is a testament to the magnetic power of her death, and Thernstrom’s exceptional sensitivity qualifies her as an ideal guide through the darkness”

--Daniel Max, The New Republic

“THE DEAD GIRL is a unique story--powerfully moving, stark, tender and a wonderful read.”

--Mary Higgins Clark

“Lovely and compelling. . . An impressive debut and a strong stirring memoir of a friend. . . reminds us what a thin edge we are on, and therefore of how astonishing it is to be alive.” 

--Anne Lamott, Mademoiselle

“An astonishingly delicate and sensitive memorial to a lost friend. . . the struggle of two privileged young women trying to find a place in the chaotic world of the mid 1980’s.”

--The Boston Globe

“THE DEAD GIRL builds with such graceful momentum that it reads like water flowing. . . the story of a friendship, after the fact, incapable of escaping it. . . hinting, again and again, that for one to have left the other, is a terrible betrayal, a broken promise, of some blood-sister pact made at the age of ten.”

--Greil Marcus

“Thernstrom is such a good writer, you’ll follow her almost anywhere. . . a great many funny, sad, wise and compelling things about life are said in this book. . . It seems to validate one of the tenets of her friendship with Roberta, a theme expressed repeatedly in the book, that there is no sensibility so sharp and true as an adolescent’s and so powerless against the grown-up world.”

--Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Raw honest and disturbing--not just because of the violence at its center, but for the facts about a particular all-too-common young womanhood, pressured to please, pressured to succeed and clouded by self-doubt and fear.”


“A fiercely honest and lyrical account. . .Thernstrom shows us a new generation, poised on the brink of adulthood, that knows the crucial difference between self-awareness and self-absorption.”

--Pearl K. Bell

“Imaginative, complex and impassioned, THE DEAD GIRL is as much about growing up as it is about murder, as much about life--the life of young people today--as it is about death.”

--Linda Wolfe, author of The Preppie Murder

“Thernstrom has created something unique. . . Partly a memorial to Lee, partly a meditation on the ineradicable presence of violence in relations between men and women and partly a personal, unsparing look at Thernstrom’s tumultuous effort to come to grips with her own overwhelming sense of desolation and vulnerability. . . Virtues of style, insight, and harrowing honesty.  THE DEAD GIRL is a triumph of self-revelation.”

--The Chicago Tribune

“A truly remarkable exercise in insight and objectivity: the day to day concerns, joys and woes of this group of privileged young Americans are chronicled in this fierce light of tragedy and horror without a single false note being sounded.”

--Conor Cruise O’Brien