Book Review: Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

Cartwheel by Jennifer DuboisCartwheel: What it is about

The publisher says: “When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.

Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.

In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond.

Cartwheel: What I thought

I was expecting a mystery novel and what I got was more like a psychological novel and family relationships novel. That was fine with me. The story is told from the perspective of several people, and so, not a traditional mystery novel in which one (or two) people are researching a murder. In this case, the research was not focused on the murder so much, as on the accused.

That was Lily Hayes, who was having a good few months abroad in Argentina, when her room mate was killed. Lily could have done it, but equally, she could be totally innocent. Or innocent but involved.

In the book, the father, the sister and the prosecutor go and visit each other and other people involved, such as the rather odd neighbor, Sebastien. He’s young and rich and a kind of hermit, but Lily is attracted to him when they meet soon after she arrives in Argentina. Whether he is involved in the murder stays unclear for a long time, but it seems odd that the police arrested Lily, and not Sebastien.

What really happens doesn’t become clear for a while. And it’s not really important. This book is about a family dealing with the imprisonment of a daughter, and about a prosecutor, who needs to believe that Lily is guilty but sometimes has his doubts. But the cartwheel that Lily did in the interrogation room says it all for him: she doesn’t care about her room mate’s death.

Is it really that simple?

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 372

First published: 2013

I got this: from my Dutch rep for Random House US

Genre: contemporary fiction

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

15 Responses to Book Review: Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

  1. Monika says:

    I’ve heard some interesting comparisons from others about this book and the Amanda Knox case, wondering if it was inspired by the rumor of Knox doing a cartwheel when she was arrested.

    I enjoy stories told from several perspectives. Glad you liked this one so much!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Monika, I hadn’t heard about the Amanda Knox case (which is why I don’t mention it in my review). I also like it when a story is told from different perspectives.

  2. debbierodgers says:

    I’ve read a few reviews of this and was on the fence as to whether or to read it. Your review has convinced me to put it on my TBR wish list. Thanks, Judith!

  3. This just landed in my letterbox 🙂

  4. Marie says:

    Just reading the review really brings to mind that Amanda Knox case! It sounds pretty interesting, though, and I will definitely keep a look out for it. I like this kind of psychological drama/thriller.

  5. I really liked this book so very, very much. I kept changing my mind…she’s innocent! Wait, no she’s NOT! Etc, etc.

    • Leeswammes says:

      🙂 Jennifer, I liked it a bit less than you did, but it was an enjoyable read. Yes, it was so unclear whether she was innocent or not. I was a little influenced by her family, who said that she could not possibly have done it.

  6. Athira says:

    I have been on the fence regarding this one and I’m still not too sure. I wanted to read this initially but its similarity to the Amanda Knox case has me a little leery. Glad you recommend it though – I will keep it on my radar.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Athira, maybe when you’ve read a few more reviews, you’l know for sure whether to read it. I didn’t know about the Amanda Knox case, so it didn’t influence me in any way.

  7. Glad I saw your review – have been recommended this one but was a little uncertain. Now, I think it’s for me 🙂

  8. Isi says:

    I have already seen this book in other blogs and looks really interesting. I want to know what happened in that apartment!

  9. Pingback: Book Review and Giveaway - CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois

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