A Book Review of They Wish They Were Us By Jessica Goodman

Illustration by Allen B Thangkhiew

Someone knows their secrets, someone knows their sacrifices, someone knows what they had to do to get in the in-crowd.

 They Wish They Were Us, the debut Young Adult murder-mystery by Cosmopolitan editor, Jessica Goodman took the book world by storm in mid-2020. A mix perfect for fans of popular American Series Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, Goodman’s page-turning novel brought back a much-needed spotlight onto the YA “whodunit” trope. The popular hype for this book is not without deserved recognition, with a TV adaptation “The Players Table” coming this year on HBO, produced by Jessica Goodman and singer-songwriter Halsey, and an acting debut by the ‘Without Me” singer along with Euphoria’s star Sydney Sweeny.

Gold Coast Prep, an affluent high school is home to the elite rich kids of the area, with their secret not-so-secret inner circle ‘The Players’ who get all the perks of being a ‘Player’, but none of them get in without completing a series of merciless challenges. Senior Jill Newman is on her fast-track road to an Ivy League college, is in a swoon-worthy adorable relationship with her long term boyfriend and has an exceptional group of friends who are all a part of ‘The Players’. The Players have got it all. Along with their secrets.

Jill’s best friend and Player member, Shaila Arnold was killed during her first year of High School year 4 years prior and her murder shook their small town. Sheila’s then-boyfriend, Graham confessed to killing her and with that closure, the Players tried to move on with their lives until a series of texts messages declaring Graham’s innocence was sent to Jill.

Jill’s perfect life and future are now clouded, because if Graham is innocent, then the real killer is still out there, and Jill is at a crossroads about what or who to believe.

Spending some time in Jill’s shoes throughout the book, seeing her point of view, her inner thoughts and monologues kept me in a fast-paced page-flipping as she was in between it all; the murder, the dark drama of the Players and the hunt for the truth.

Illustration by Allen B Thangkhiew

Gritty quests, shameful and atrocious secrets, as well as a manhunt for truth and honour, are what the author brought to the surface of this book. Along with Jill, I found out that nothing is ever what it seems, not Gold Coast, not Graham and definitely not The Players.

The story follows Jill and her friends who are all a part of the Players on this path-changing course towards justice as well as destruction, uncovering dark and disturbing secrets that all the Players have hidden from the rest of the Gold Coast. I was not fond of the characters at first. Though entitled and spoilt, they go through a progressive character development which made me shockingly sympathetic towards them.

All of the characters are raw and real, each of them twisted.

It takes a lot of effort and good writing to pull someone into a book and give them an out of world experience, and this book did exactly that for me, adventuring along with all of them through Jill’s eyes.

Jessica Goodman drove this book to its utmost potential; with the alternating chapters from past and present and the fast pace of her writing which sucked me into its pages. If anyone is ever in a book slump or want to start reading, this book is the one to pick up. Fast, beautiful and hauntingly raw, Goodman will take readers on a voyage that showed me how deeply relationships can impact a person through feelings of loss, anger and more importantly, the power of power.


“Look around. Look at everyone else,” Shaila whispered into the huddle. “They wish they were us.”






Author: Michelle Syiemlieh

Michelle Syiemlieh is an Editorial Intern. She is a 5th Year Student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She enjoys reading, fashion and cooking and loves her dogs.

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