Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois, a Review

imagesCartwheel is the story of Lily Hayes, who at the start of the novel, is awaiting trial in an Argentine prison for the murder of her roommate. While you might assume that this novel is headed in the “ripped from the headlines” direction, somewhere along the way it pleasantly slips away. Less a retelling of a not-so-recent study abroad murder, and more of a captivating story in its own right, Cartwheel was the surprise sleeper on my Fall Reading list. Well-written and nicely edited, it clips along at a good pace, and the narrative, told from varying points of view, helps to give this novel substantial depth.

A must for anyone who has ever studied abroad and experienced what it’s like to call a strange city temporarily home, Cartwheel focuses less on the destination (Buenos Aires) and more on the relationships between her characters.  Each voice in this multi-narrative story is unique, and  every character’s misconceptions, notions and prejudices help to inadvertently flesh out the other members of the cast even more.

What I loved about Cartwheel?
duBois perfectly captures what it is like to be on the cusp of adulthood in the voices of her characters, but in a way that is neither cliche or annoying.  Whether it is from the POV of Lily, her sister Anna, or even the broody Sebastien, duBois weaves together their perspectives in a believable, yet angsty way that I think most readers can relate to.  She also manages to convey the awkwardness fraught in all of the characters relationships (father-daughter, roommates, sisters, boyfriend-girlfriend), that had me reminiscing what it was like to be in my late teens again. (So glad that that phase of my life is in the rearview mirror!)

What I would have liked more of: 
Katy. The little snippets we get of her are not nearly enough, and you can’t help but want to peek into her head. Dubois does a lovely job of painting a complex “victim”. Also, there are some sentences that I’m pretty sure, after re-reading them multiple times, don’t make sense. For the most part (like 95% of the time), duBois’ prose is perfect, thus when she misses here or there it’s that much more noticeable.

Available from

xo The Book Bird 

*Disclaimer: A copy of this novel was provided to me for review by the publisher- however, I had also by this point in time gotten a copy from the library!*