Preview Reviews: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

Preview Reviews: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

As Layla relives the events from her youth that have shaped her present, her past starts to infiltrate her life in a way she can no longer ignore. She’s run from her town, her friends and the memory of what she’s done. Now she must face them all in The Girl She Was.

Read our Preview reviewer thoughts here:

The Girl She Was is an engaging read right from the start. Well paced, great characters, decent twists and smooth transition between the past and present made this thought provoking read by Rebecca Freeborn a really enjoyable one. – Mena, NSW, 4 stars

Quite mysterious. Well rounded, relatable characters. I’ll go looking for some more books by Rebecca Freeborn quite soon I think! – Jane, NSW, 4 stars

Confronting and emotive, “The Girl She Was” proved to be a real page-turner. The main character Layla’s story spanned themes such as relationship dynamics, self-esteem, power, blame and forgiveness in a topical way, which would make this quick-to-read novel a good conversation starter for book club groups. I really liked that the story was told using alternating chapters comprising “Then”, set during Layla’s final year of high school, and “Now”, twenty years later. This was a great way to get an insight into her tumultuous teenage experience, why she made the decisions she did (although I found myself frequently hoping she would do the opposite!) and how these choices – despite her best efforts to forget them – had consequences that bled not only into her adult life but the lives of those around her. Although I felt that some of the long-standing conflicts were resolved very quickly, I still enjoyed the read. – Nikki, WA, 3 stars

The Girl She Was just proves that we all think everyone else cares more about our business than they actually do! Layla has a secret that she’s never stopped (figuratively) running from, but is everything what it seems? This is an interesting tale with plenty of suspense and twists along the way. Post #MeToo it’s easier looking back to see who’s in the wrong, but guilt (real or imagined) gets to people… The writing of this topical subject was well handled, and it’s very relevant in these times to look back on the past with eyes open. I admired Layla and her ability to ‘put on her face’ to show the world while she was furiously keeping things afloat below the surface, which wasn’t healthy. Some say “you can never go back”, but sometimes you can… – Ayesha, NSW, 3 stars

This book was right up my alley – I love a good twist! While this is an easy read, it also highlights some really important social issues – gender dynamics, power struggles, domestic violence and mental health. It is really encouraging to see some of these explored in popular culture. The book also unpacks the various relationships in quite a unique way. Highly recommend for anyone looking for an easy read with some real grunt to it! – Renae, VIC, 4 stars

Rebecca Freeborn’s The Girl She Was is a harrowing story of the systematic dismantling of an innocent young girl, and the fragile shell she inhabits as an adult.  When long-suppressed events of the past resurface, she is forced to confront her actions and dark memories with somewhat bittersweet and unexpected outcomes.  Power, respect, friendship, truth and the nature of love are themes central to the heart of this brutally honest novel.  Highly recommended! – Imogen, VIC, 5 stars

An uncomfortable but well written read. The subject matter is very topical at the matter, and what Layla went through as a teenager made me sad, angry and frustrated. I liked the seamless switching between past and present and applaud Layla for the steps she took to get her life back, eventually. Great exploration of how we change as we get older and remember events differently and how others in Layla’s teenage circle have moved on while she is still stuck in the past somewhat. Great twist at the end. – Emily, VIC, 4 stars

The Girl She Was is a disturbing story told in two timelines the first being that of seventeen year old teenager Layla, a high school student that works part time at the local café in Glasswater Bay.   Layla falls into a relationship with her handsome yet married boss, things don’t exactly work out well and it sends her life spiralling off course.   We fast-forward twenty years later, Layla is happily married with children. Whilst she is breaking up a fight her two children are having with each other she receives a notification from facebook messager.  The message is from someone in her past who she never expected to hear from again and read ‘I know what you did’. The message was a shock, it was the past and Layla had long ago stopped worrying whether anyone would find out what she’d done.   The story is set in South Australia, I found it to be an absolute page-turner with believable and interesting characters. It was just wonderful to revisit some well known Adelaide landmarks in the story. This book is an intriguing read about female friendships, bad relationships and stuffing up as a teenager.  – Gloria, SA, 4 stars

This book was a little hard to read when I first got it with what had happened in Queensland. I like the past and present written of the book and it certainly kept you hooked until the end. The main character, Layla, was a very strong person but others were interesting too – Carmel, NSW, 5 stars

‘The Girl She Was’ is an awesome read. This book contains some very dynamic characters that are relatable to many people in today’s world. It was a book that I found very hard to put down, feeling part of the characters lives!  This book also contained some ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ scenes!  An enjoyable read. – Karen, VIC, 5 stars

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. There were twists and turns right to the end and I couldn’t wait to figure out what was going to happen – Nicky, NSW, 4 stars

Layla has a secret…we know that she had an affair with a married man twenty years ago, but her husband doesn’t. What else is she hiding? Freeborn slowly unravels the mystery in chapters alternating between ‘now’ and ‘then’, until the inevitable collision of past and present. I enjoyed Freeborn’s writing style and felt that she dealt with confronting issues well. I was eager to see where the story would lead, but the storyline was not credible. I didn’t believe that Layla would have been able to escape her ‘secret’ and keep it so for twenty years. This book had a promising start, but ultimately did not deliver… – Anne, VIC, 3 stars

Easy read, every page was interesting, made me think of my younger years and what I may have held on to all these years that to me seems huge but to others forgotten or barely a memory. Also how one can be taken advantage of with the correct words to poke at our insecurities. Highlighted the fear that can rip through you when your past comes back to haunt or threaten the status quo of your life now.  Great read, strong characters a story that made me reflect on my past. The flow from present to past was easy to navigate and did not confuse. I enjoyed the story, very engaging. – Michelle, QLD, 4 stars

“I know what you did.”  This sent chills through me and had me hooked on the first page of The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn.  We begin with the 37 year old Layla and this message sends her back to her teens.  What happened back then?  What impact has it had on Layla’s life, which seems so distant from the teenage Layla?  I like the way we hear from present day Layla, and teenage Layla.  Present day we have suburban mother and wife (could be anyone we know), and the teenage Layla could have been any of us.  Layla’s past is catching up with her.  Will her life now be turned upside down?  I was completely caught up and found any time I could to go back to the book to find out what happens.  Definitely a page turner I could relate to.  Love an Australian setting!  I will be seeking out Rebecca Freeborn’s previous books, Misconception and Hot Pursuit.  Excited to find a new author to follow. – Rebecca, VIC, 4 stars

Working in the sexual assault and DV space I wondered how it would feel to read a fictional work of art on the topic. It was simply challenging, eye opening and a perfect example of how manipulation and violence worms it’s way into relationships slowly, as well as showing how it leaves its mark for years to come. I loved this book, will recommend it to my friends especially my younger friends and nieces and cannot wait now to read Rebeccas other works. Thank you putting this story out there! Loved it! – Deanne, NSW, 5 stars

The author transports the reader on a journey through the past to a time of innocence and naivety during adolescence revealing the self-doubt created by these experiences.  The story line demonstrates how some of those experiences manifest into burdens throughout adulthood resulting in life changing circumstances. I found the vulnerability of the main characters to be relatable, drawing you in to the drama and complexities of small town life. The chapters weave through the past and present developing the characters while building suspense for the climatic revelation.  What really happened to Layla all those years ago? A gripping and racy novel providing twists and turns that will have you guessing till the climatic finale. – Lisa, QLD, 5 stars

“The Girl She Was” unfortunately I did not enjoy this book and it would not have been a book I would have bought. The style of writing was great with a lot of attention to detail  but I believe the subject matter was not one that should be the main feature of a book. Would I reccommend this I am sorry to say NO. – Christine, QLD, 1 star

‘The Girl She Was’ is a compelling, contemporary read.  It felt real and frightening.  The book is easy to read and although the story flits between the end of school and the present day (close to twenty years), the transitions are smooth.  The subject matter was a little disturbing, but I think it is topical and important.  The book was a page turner because I had to find out what ‘the secret’ was.  I recommend ‘The Girl She Was’. – Sandra, ACT, 4 stars

Not only was ‘The Girl She Was’ a compelling page-turner, Freeborn has touched on social issues that are often ignored or at the very least swept under the carpet. Freeborn’s skill with seamlessly moving from the present to the past provides a compelling insight into how ‘normal’ teenage behaviours or events can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s life. I’m sure many readers will recognise ‘Layla’ and ‘Scott’ either in themselves or in their friends or acquaintances, and that in itself is thought-provoking and perhaps worthy of discussion. Additionally, the reader cannot predict the final outcome in the novel, as it has more twists and turns than a mountain highway, resulting in a completely unprepared-for ending. ‘The Girl She Was’ is an absolute must-read by a talented Australian author. – Janette, VIC, 5 stars

Wow what a book. Well paced, good characterisation, solid twists. Layla and her situation was believable. A really good book – Rochelle, VIC, 5 stars

This novel was told in alternating chapters detailing the past and the present. The suspense was well plotted and built up to a great climax! The protagonist went through a powerful transformation through the story. I hated the wretchedness and fear layla experienced but admire her strength in the end. It kept me reading all night to find out what had happened to her and where she would go next. Great writing. – Kristy, NSW, 3 stars

Very easy read, nothing to get excited about. Heidi, NSW, 2 stars

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to receive a copy of The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn. It’s a very relevant tale of how our past, until we’re able to face it head on, can greatly influence our future. The characters were easily identifiable & I found myself relating to not just the main character, but many of the others as well. I loved the intrigue & I read this book in one sitting. – Lynne, QLD, 5 stars

A powerful message about how our actions and words can follow and haunt us all our lives. Many lessons gave be learnt from watching Layla grow up both mentally and physically.  The relationship she shares with Shona and Renee will last a lifetime but serious cracks threaten to tear them apart from life choices by Layla. This book may be very useful as an educational tool in high schools to illustrate how words and actions can harm each of us and steer us in many paths. Easy to read despite jumping from now to then each chapter. It takes us all on a journey to our past. – Shelley, NSW, 4 stars

“The Girl She Was” by Rebecca Freeborn was an interesting read for me. The story jumps back and forward in chapters from “Then to “Now”. Its steadily paced with hints of what happened back “Then” and how it colours the life of the protagonist in the “Now”. I enjoyed this book, but I felt uneasy with the issues of grooming, domestic violence and the use of social media to harass and intimidate, in what seems to be the new norm in todays society. – Leigh, VIC, 4 stars

‘The Girl She Was’ switches between now and then, Rebecca Freeborn has written an interesting book making you realize how some people can be manipulated in a relationship. Layla Flynn married to Cam and with two small children has managed to put the past behind her until she gets a facebook message saying ‘I know what you did’. Twenty years ago she was a teenager living in Glasswater Bay with her parents and brother. A pupil at Glasswater Bay High she had good friends Renee and Shona both experienced with dating. Layla wasn’t into the dating scene and felt inadequate. She worked outside school hours at a Cafe owned by 28yr old Scott who she had a crush on. After an incident the family moved and Layla has never returned but after the messages continue and involve Cam as well Layla decides to go back to confront her past, and to reconnect with her friends. – Gillian, QLD, 4 stars

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                        Publisher details

                        The Girl She Was
                        Author
                        Rebecca Freeborn
                        Publisher
                        Pantera Press
                        Genre
                        Fiction
                        Released
                        31 March, 2020

                        Synopsis

                        ‘She’d long ago stopped wondering whether anyone would find out what she’d done. It was in the past, and Layla didn’t dwell on the past.’At the cafe in the small town of Glasswater Bay where she works after school, seventeen-year-old Layla enters into a volatile relationship with her married boss.Twenty years later, she receives a message from her former boss’s wife.As Layla relives the events from her youth that have shaped her present, her past starts to infiltrate her life in a way she can no longer ignore.She’s run from her town, her friends and the memory of what she’s done. Now she must face them all.
                        Rebecca Freeborn
                        About the author

                        Rebecca Freeborn

                        Rebecca Freeborn lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills with a husband, three kids, a dog, a cat, a horse, more books than she can fit in her bookcase and an ever-diminishing wine collection. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Creative Communications and now works as a communications and content editor for the South Australian Government where she screams into the void against passive voice and unnecessary capitalisation. Rebecca loves strong, witty female characters, and wrote Hot Pursuit because she wanted to escape the focus on fashion and personal appearance that is so common in contemporary women 's fiction. She writes before the sun comes up and spends her moments of spare time reading novels and feminist articles and compulsively checking Facebook.`

                        Books by Rebecca Freeborn

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