i give this a generous 2 stars because it got so much better toward the end, and because i found myself actually caring a bit about what happened to the characters, and not minding reading it. but this book started out very weakly. the writing picked up slightly throughout, but it was never all that good. what bothered me the most about this book, other than the writing and weak character development, was its similarities to another book i've read called the secret history, by donna tartt. the books end up differing quite a bit by the end, but through 2/3 of it, an awful lot is similar (except that tartt's book is far more engaging.) and actually, because of having read tartt's book, pieces of this one that were supposed to be shocking or revelations, i'd expected coming. i don't know if goodman had read the secret history before writing her book or if she even knew about it. she easily could have had a similar idea and written a similar story. but because they're similar, i couldn't help comparing, and hers falls far short.