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Review: Cartwheel

November 21, 2013


Lily Hayes is studying abroad in Buenos Aires.  She lives with a local host family and Katy Kellers, another American student who’s there for the semester.  When Katy is found murdered, Lily is arrested for the crime.

Loosely based on the Amanda Knox story, Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois is Lily’s story before and after the crime.  Told from alternating points of view and shifting time frames, the book tells Lily’s story from many different perspectives.   Even though she’s not very likeable, Lily is complex and fascinating.

I only knew the basics of the Amanda Knox story so I don’t know how closely this book mirrors it.  I found Lily’s story fascinating and somewhat disturbing.  She was charming, manipulative, selfish, and self absorbed and found herself in a very tough situation.

I really enjoyed duBois’s writing but didn’t love Cartwheel as much as I thought I would because I was disappointed with the ambiguous ending.  (From what I understand, the Amanda Knox case ended much the same way.)  I have to say that I think this book would make a great book club selection because of that ambiguous ending – there’s so much to think about and discuss!  Even though this book wasn’t my favorite, I will certainly read another of duBois’s books because her writing is top notch.

I listened to the audio version of the book.  Emily Rankin does a satisfactory job narrating this fourteen and a half hour audiobook.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
26 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2013 6:12 am

    I know a few people who might enjoy this one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. November 21, 2013 6:22 am

    I really enjoyed this one, might even make my top 10 of the year. One of my favorite things was the title. So clever.

  3. November 21, 2013 6:43 am

    I couldn’t stand the Amanda Knox story so I figure I won’t like this either!

  4. Beth F permalink
    November 21, 2013 7:20 am

    I know only the bare bones of the Knox story but I’m curious about this. Ambiguous endings do indeed make good book club choices.

  5. November 21, 2013 8:41 am

    I’ve followed the Knox story only closely enough to know I might not like a book based on it, lol! But I can see where it might be a good book club pick.

  6. November 21, 2013 9:39 am

    I’ll keep this author’s name in mind for her other books because you said her writing is very good. This one doesn’t interest me.

  7. November 21, 2013 9:56 am

    Oh, this is another book I want to read. I think I need to make a trip to my local library bookstore with my (long) list today. #IndieThursday

  8. November 21, 2013 10:29 am

    You and I reviewed the same book, on the same day! A first!

    I was bothered by the ending. I think I know what happened but maybe not. I didn’t follow the Knox trial but the details of the case were incorporated a tad too much in this one. The bra and the dna, a cartwheel instead of yoga, etc.

  9. November 21, 2013 10:55 am

    There is so much ambiguity in the world as it is that I look for neat, tied up endings in fiction. I saw a lot of the Amanda Knox trial news and can’t make up my mind about her, except to know that she’s a complicated woman who could possibly be guilty.

  10. November 21, 2013 11:00 am

    I am so attached to the Amanda Knox story and trial. I had never heard of this book before, but I’m definitely going to seek it out soon. It sounds so good!

  11. November 21, 2013 11:22 am

    I didn’t like this story at all. I remember following the Amanda Knox trial on tv and found myself looking forward to this book – what a let down. I was not taken with this book at all.

  12. November 21, 2013 11:38 am

    I haven’t heard of the Amanda Knox story but I have a feeling this book won’t be my cup of tea. Thanks for such an honest review!

  13. November 21, 2013 1:25 pm

    My first thought was, “Who is Amanda Knox?” I recognize the name, but that’s as far as it goes. The book sounds interesting from the description. I don’t mind ambiguous endings in some instances, but I think in a book like this, it would bother me. I don’t know. I’m still on the fence about this one.

  14. November 21, 2013 1:34 pm

    Kathy, thanks for another clear and concise review. I’m not sure I’d do well with the ambiguous ending.

  15. Patty permalink
    November 21, 2013 2:44 pm

    Totally agree with you and Ti!

  16. talesofwhimsy permalink
    November 21, 2013 2:54 pm

    Oooo fascinating. I immediately thought of Amanda Knox when I started reading the summary.

  17. techeditor permalink
    November 21, 2013 4:10 pm

    I read this, too.

    CARTWHEEL is a story, but, even more, it is an examination of how people think of themselves and how others see them, how easily misunderstandings occur, and how the innocent can appear guilty.

    Jennifer DuBois based her story on a true one from the headlines, which anyone can do. But she does with it what few writers come close to doing. Her novel A PARTIAL HISTORY OF LOST CAUSES received many great reviews and awards, but here’s a prediction: CARTWHEEL will do even better.

    The story: Lily is a US citizen and student living in Buenos Aires to study there for a semester. She stays in someone’s home with another student, Katy. Eventually, Katy is murdered, and Lily is arrested as the suspect.

    DuBois tells the story through the eyes of different characters, including Lily; Sebastian, the boy next door who loves her; Lily’s sister and father; and the manipulative prosecutor, so concerned about his record of convictions that he is convinced of Lily’s guilt even after DNA results prove that someone else is the murderer. In this way, we see how they see themselves and each other, and how they perceive and misconceive others’ actions and events.

    Warning: DuBois does something many readers normally dislike. She goes off on tangents; that is, she sometimes has characters, especially Lily’s father, remember events that happened years ago. Her intention, it seems, is to show how one event leads to another and to another, and so on. Other authors do this, too, and it’s boring and tedious. But DuBois’ descriptions are riveting.

    Although, as I said, this is a story, and there is plot, CARTWHEEL is mostly character driven. And that is another warning. Some readers prefer plot-driven novels, and CARTWHEEL is not that. CARTWHEEL is a beautifully written and riveting character study as they are set in this story of an American girl accused of murder.

    This review is of an ARC provided by Random House and won through

  18. November 21, 2013 4:53 pm

    I have this one on Sparky…and I am hoping to read it soon. Thanks for your thoughts!

  19. November 21, 2013 6:37 pm

    I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I’m eager to check it out myself when I get the chance. I have the ebook though not the audio. Thanks for the heads up on the ambiguous ending.

  20. November 21, 2013 9:39 pm

    I think this book sounds intriguing!

  21. November 22, 2013 5:08 am

    Sounds like this one has a lot to discuss.

  22. November 22, 2013 6:51 am

    For some reason, this one does not interest me. Sorry the audio was not better.

  23. November 22, 2013 9:56 pm

    I don’t think I’d be interested in the Amanda Knox story, even retold through fiction. I’d always be picturing the real Amanda!

  24. November 23, 2013 2:49 am

    I might like this one. I read the Amanda Knox story and would be interested in the comparison.

  25. November 26, 2013 12:24 pm

    I watched some of the news coverage but not a lot so I think I may find this book interesting.

  26. bookingmama permalink
    December 2, 2013 7:00 pm

    This was an interesting read for me because I had read a book on the Knox case. I liked that it explored the characters, and the writing was stellar.

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