What Little Girls Are Made Of

Fiction - Crime
263 Pages
Reviewed on 02/17/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

What Little Girls Are Made Of by C.A. Whittingham is a crime thriller that centers around and bravely confronts the last literary taboo, pedophilia. The narrative dances neatly throughout the point of view of the antagonist and perpetrator, Stefan Mademan, who is being early paroled from a twenty-year prison sentence for an unthinkable network, and a woman with whom he has built a strong and enduring relationship, Elise Miles. It also provides the point of view of Mademan's victims and a young group that had been deceived into a fateful “camping trip” by upstanding members of their community who had won their trust. As the stories intertwine and converge, the reader comes to see what little girls are truly made of.

C.A. Whittingham has written a masterful story of heartbreak, resilience, and redress in What Little Girls Are Made Of. The approach toward a deeply painful and highly sensitive abomination is handled with the gifted, measured hand of a writer that knows how to balance depravity without resorting to sensationalism, and the result is exceptional. The children themselves are thoroughly developed in a short span of time, as are their circumstances which make each accessible to a ring of predators. Karen, Tessa, Michelle, and sweet little Dane come to life, as do the adult characters, particularly Elise and Shauna, who round out a compelling, character-driven plot. Fans of Lorenzo Carcaterra's Sleepers and Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones will find a new favorite in this novel, just as I have.

Viga Boland

What Little Girls are Made of by C.A. Whittingham is way more than mere crime fiction. This is one of the most thrilling and chilling novels I’ve ever read based on revenge for childhood abuse, and if you’ve ever been abused as the children in this story were, you’ll find yourself rooting for the avenger(s) all the way to the explosive climax. Stefan Mademan, a pedophile convicted of the rape and murder of a child, opens the story during a parole hearing after 20 years of imprisonment. He’s been a model prisoner and pleads a good case. Though one of the parole board whispers to him that as far as she’s concerned he deserves nothing less than a torturous death, he is released to the loving, open arms of Elise. But just who is Elise? She has been corresponding with Mademan for 5 years and can’t wait to have him in her home where she can love and care for him as he deserves. What’s going on here?

Through flashbacks, Whittingham takes us back to the time, circumstances and people involved when this poor child was raped and murdered. Other children might have suffered a similar fate that night had they not managed to escape. Now years later, the reader meets them again but doesn’t realize it. This is how Whittingham keeps readers glued to the pages, trying to figure out each character’s role in this story. Who are these adult women, who, like Elise are very successful in their jobs but a mystery to their co-workers. The thrilling part of this novel is trying to work it all out and discovering the truth. The chilling part is finally realizing What Little Girls are Made Of. This novel is carefully plotted and beautifully developed...a pleasure to read despite the ugliness the book explores. It drives home the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: some victims learn to live with it, but none ever forgets or just gets over it. Victims of abuse might be triggered by the violence depicted, but for those who can take it, dive in. A riveting and unforgettable read.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

What Little Girls Are Made Of by C.A. Whittingham is a crime thriller. Stefan Mademan, convicted of raping and killing a young girl, has served 20 years of a 30-year sentence and is up for parole. He desperately wants out because Elise Miles is waiting for him – a beautiful, smart woman, but why is she writing to Stefan? Why does she want a relationship with the UK’s most hated criminal? Through letters and visits, they plan a future but both are hiding secrets that will have to come out. Octavia, a smart, successful SIO with the police; Shauna, another smart, successful woman, and Lady Godiva, a homeless bag lady befriended by Elise. Who are all these women? What is the connection that binds them?

What Little Girls Are Made Of by C.A. Whittingham is a fantastic story. It grabs you from the very first page, dragging you heading into a world of depravity and revenge. This is an action-all-the-way story and, flicking between the past and the present, the whole story is gradually revealed. At first, you will wonder who the other characters are in the story but it does all become clear as several stories are neatly woven together in one thrilling fabric. I thought I had guessed the ending about half-way through and, while I was nearly there, one of many twists threw me off course. That’s the thing with this story; there are some pretty neat twists in it, some you may guess, others you won’t. The characters are excellent, real people developed in a way that, by the end of the story, you really know them. There are some scenes in the story that are a little violent but nothing that doesn’t fit into the storyline. Excellent story. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who wants a cracking good book to get their teeth into.

K.C. Finn

What Little Girls Are Made Of is a work of spine-tingling and hard-hitting crime fiction penned by author C. A. Whittingham. Written for strictly adult audiences due to explicit language, sexual themes and situations, as well as violence, this intriguing and psychological novel tackles the concept of a convicted pedophile being released back into the civilized world. Stefan Mademan is a hated criminal, so when the gorgeous young Elise Miles starts a writing relationship with him, he banks all his hopes on the future. What follows is a tense and slow-burning crime mystery where all the truth must be outed if the pair are to have any chance of success.

To preface, the themes of this book will not suit all readers, but for those who appreciate a deeply character-based crime novel that isn’t afraid to tackle shocking and taboo subjects, then this will certainly be the book for you. It is a little uncomfortable at times, but the prose and narration by author C. A. Whittingham are solid, and the author does some really hard work to get into the mindset of Mademan, but also of the people he interacts with every day. Playing on media stereotypes in the UK and how we look upon offenders of his nature, there’s a fascinating development to the tale, and many twists later on that change the nature of what you’re reading, and your own judgments about it. Overall, What Little Girls Are Made Of is a surprising and fascinating read that is definitely recommended to crime fans.

Asher Syed

What Little Girls Are Made Of by C.A. Whittingham is the story of a pedophile named Stefan Mademan who has begrudgingly been paroled as part of an early release program. The decision is made even though the board has no desire to see him released and even Stefan outright admits, while defending his pedophilia as a sickness, that he is not really reformed. The crime he was caught for (although he was a serial abuser of children) and landed him in jail is the driver for the plot, which comes to light after Stefan's release when he goes 'home' to a woman he has been having a relationship with through correspondence, Elise Miles, while serving his time.

What Little Girls Are Made Of by C.A.Whittingham is a difficult book to read, but definitely worthwhile. Stefan is made a point of view character which gives a different perspective to the mind and workings of a child predator in the same way that Alissa Nutting does in the book Tampa. His is one of multiple points of view characters, that include a victim and grown women (standard fare in crime fiction), but Stefan was the most intriguing to me. There's a twist to the plot that I didn't see coming from the blurb that is really satisfying; this is made even greater after his crime is described in full detail. The writing is very good and I will be following Whittingham to see what novel gets put out next.