Book Review: Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger
By John ValeriOctober 8, 2021
Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger is a riveting thriller where secrets, obsession, and vengeance converge when an online dating match turns into a deadly cat-and-mouse game.
New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger is at it again. Her 2020 standalone, Confessions on the 7:45, was a finalist for top honors from the Audie Awards, ITW, and The Strand, while last Spring’s House of Crows (for Amazon Original Stories) found her venturing into the art of the serial. Now, she’s back with Last Girl Ghosted, a timely story of cyber romance and revenge.
“Modern dating. Let’s be honest. It sucks.” So thinks Wren Greenwood as she sits on a bar stool waiting to see if she’s made a love connection with Adam Harper, the man behind the profile she’s taken a liking to on the trendy new app, Tor. It’s an impersonal way to meet somebody, but Wren—who secretly doubles as popular advice columnist Dear Birdie—is of a generation that courts by swipe. Yet Rilke-worshipping Adam, with his brooding intensity and unorthodox appeal, seems destined to restore her faith. Of course, first impressions can be deadly wrong.
After a whirlwind three-month romance, Adam fails to show for a dinner date and later sends a cryptic text—“Something’s happened. I have to go. I’m sorry, Wren.”—before going dark; he shutters his Tor profile, disconnects his phone, and abandons his apartment. The one thing he fails to consider is that Wren Greenwood isn’t the girl you ghost. Tormented by his unceremonious departure, she decides to go on the offensive when PI Bailey Kirk shows up on her doorstep looking for leads—and bringing with him the allegation that Adam has a history of being involved with women who later go missing.
Of course, duplicity is a game Wren knows well. Dear Birdie isn’t her only secret. She’s still haunted by a childhood tragedy that played out in an upstate New York town known as The Hollows, where her father—a war veteran afflicted with PTSD—moved their family to live off the grid; acts of escalating violence eventually claimed the lives of Wren’s mother and brother. She shared the secret of that fateful night and its aftermath with Adam and can’t help thinking he’ll use that knowledge to his advantage given his apparent pension for women who’ve endured traumatic events. But just what is his end game? She’ll go to extreme lengths to find out—or die trying.
The narrative has an alternating then/now structure, which allows Unger to slowly reveal the vestiges of Wren’s past that continue to inform her present in ways both subtle and significant. Other, shorter passages are told from different perspectives—such as Bailey Kirk and, briefly, the missing women—which both clarify and confound character motivations and machinations simultaneously. Consequently, there’s an ever-escalating tension as Wren, Adam, and Bailey all seek their vindication. The resultant game of predator and prey—but just exactly who’s who?—doesn’t simply apply to Wren and Adam but to Wren and Bailey, each of whom needs the other to accomplish what they’ve set out to do.
Lisa Unger continues to impress with the quantity and quality of her work. Last Girl Ghosted is a deeply resonant cautionary tale about dating in a digital age. Equal parts clever and creepy, it’s also imbued with keen psychological insight and hard-won wisdom. While each reader will find their own takeaway(s), perhaps one worth mentioning is this: that the more plugged in we are, the less connected we become—both to our inner selves and each other.