Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Ice Cream Girls

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
Paperback, 452 pages

First Published 1st January 2010 

adult-fiction, books-i-own, chick-lit, crime-thriller-mystery, movies-or-tv, mum-has, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction
My rating:  3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

As teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were the only witnesses to a tragic event. Amid heated public debate, the two seemingly glamorous teens were dubbed ‘The Ice Cream Girls’ by the press and were dealt with by the courts.

Years later, having led very different lives, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened, while married mother-of-two Serena wants no one in her present to find out about her past. But some secrets will not stay buried – and if theirs is revealed, everything will become a living hell all over again...

The Ice Cream Girls is a book that has been sitting on my bookshelves for years. One of my mother's favourite authors is Dorothy Koomson and out of all of her books, this is the one that I thought sounded the most interesting, so I picked it up and put it aside. There it lay for a very long time, until I saw an advert for the drama adaptation of The Ice Cream Girls on TV - it was definitely time to dust down the cover and start reading.

Unfortunately, I didn't read quickly enough and I did watch the TV adaptation before I had finished the book. As I was watching and reading the two interpretations alongside each other, it was really difficult not to judge one from the other or to fully appreciate either. I do want to make it clear that it was my fault of taking in both together that lessened my enjoyment of The Ice Cream Girls. I would really recommend reading the book before or well after watching the TV drama. The comparisons started to become quite frustrating! 

Alone and un-compared, The Ice Cream Girls stands as a well written novel with an intriguing and somewhat mysterious storyline. Poppy and Serena were two teenagers branded as 'The Ice Cream Girls' whilst they were on trial for murdering  a teacher, Marcus. After the trial, Poppy was imprisoned for several years and Serena made a new life for herself. We meet both characters as Poppy leaves prison, determined to clear her name - Poppy didn't kill Marcus, so she must find Serena who she assumes was the real killer. 

Discovering the differences between the lives of the two girls was very interesting. Poppy has spent years in prison and found herself at a distance from her family. When released, Poppy doesn't have all that much to fall back on and seems alone in the world, her only friend being another woman in prison. I really loved reading about her friendship inside the prison and the letters that she received. There was something really raw about it, something very real behind the emotion of their communication. Though I found Poppy's relationship with Alain to be quite predictable, I did warm to them towards the end. For me, Poppy was the more prominent and more interesting character in this novel, the character that was easier to connect with. 

In contrast, to Poppy, Serena is certainly not lacking in companionship - she has a husband, children and gets on well with her sisters. Everything looks great for Serena as she is planning her dream wedding, but soon things change as her past life is brought back to attention. It is certainly the unravelling of her past life to her family which is most interesting to watch. I will admit that I found it a little unbelievable that her family (her husband and children) didn't know anything about her past, despite the apparent huge media-storm that had occured around the murder trial. Things don't go well when the connection is revealed and the reaction is also fairly written.

Despite their differences, Poppy and Serena also have a lot in common - they are both still haunted by Marcus. When Serena was a teenager, she fell in love with Marcus, her history teacher. At the same time, Poppy also met Marcus and fell in love with him. Despite what the press made of their relationship, Poppy and Serena were never friends, but they were in love with the same man. Marcus, a grown man, used and abused both Poppy and Serena, demanding things from them and abusing them at his own will. From what we learn as readers, it is clear that Poppy and Serena were victims, but the media never portrayed them that way, branding them both as killers. Marcus was written well, he was a conniving character who masterfully played with two vulnerable children.  

Overall, the book was well written and there was a good idea behind it. There was a twist at the end, which was different to the adaptation I'd watched and so it was nice to have a bit of a surprise! There was just something missing from this book for me - I'm not sure what it was, but it didn't completely grab me, it wasn't something that I was desperate to return to. I think that the book could have perhaps been more realistic - the media storm of the murder and then the lack of coverage on the release of Poppy or the ease that Selena had hiding the whole situation just wasn't believable. I also found that the ending was a bit too rushed and so again, unbelievable. However, for the most part, the book was an entertaining read. I would definitely like to read more of Koomson's books in the future as I can see a lot of potential. 


  1. :( The story seems a bit too dour for me, but I'm glad you liked it for the most part. I guess it must have been annoying seeing the drama while trying to finish the book, particularly because it's crime-thriller.

  2. I read The Ice Cream Girls last year and absolutely loved it. I read it in two days, which is an unusual occurrence since I had children! I also watched the tv adaptation and thought it was pretty good but didn't quite capture the relationship between Marcus, Poppy and Serena.

  3. Can you believe I've had this book since it was first published in hardback?! Yikes, I really should get a move on.

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