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Available Nov. 17 2017
The Missing by C. L. Taylor
Reviewed by Casey Martinson
How long do you hold out hope that your missing fifteen year old son will be found alive? For Claire Wilkinson, that hope has become a maddening thing after six months. C. L. Taylor’s latest thriller, The Missing, begins there, with Claire and her family preparing for one last televised appeal to the British public: Help us find our Billy.
Claire and her husband Mark sit together for the cameras, but they do not touch or look at each other. Nasty speculation circulates online: “You can tell the father’s behind it. He’s not showing any emotion.” Awkward turns disastrous when their older son, Jake, barges into the room midway through Claire’s statement, drunk and bleeding. He’s been drinking a lot lately, and his girlfriend Kira, who lives with the family, seems powerless to keep him on an even keel. While trauma can sometimes bring a family together, the grief and uncertainty of this unsolved mystery have fractured the Wilkinsons.
From this inauspicious beginning, tragedy seems inevitable. The police have run down one dead end after another, and Claire is now taking matters into her own hands. Thus begins a journey of discovery in which every new clue throws more suspicion on members of her own family. Each of them is keeping a dark secret. Each one knows something about Billy’s disappearance that they are either too ashamed or too guilty to reveal. To make matters worse, Claire begins to have terrifying blackouts as she scours her home and the city of Bristol for the truth. One soon wonders if Claire is keeping dark secrets of her own--ones she is hiding even from herself.
In between chapters, Taylor teases readers with snippets of cell phone text between two unknown usernames, Jackdaw44 and ICE9, starting six months before Billy went missing. It’s not hard to figure out that Jackdaw44 is Billy, but Taylor keeps you guessing about the identity of ICE9 as the chats grow ever more salacious and disturbing.
If family drama doesn’t inherently grab your attention, you may find The Missing a bit of a slow starter. But, those who stick with it will soon be rewarded. Each short chapter throws more coal in the fire until the train is racing full steam ahead. Taylor shows a deft hand at mixing clues with misdirection, and while careful readers may solve the puzzle before Claire does, the end is no less devastating--and no less satisfying.
Trolled by Bruce Coville
Reviewed by Emerson Lafaye (8 years old)
I loved Trolled. I loved Trolled because, some of the charecters are funny sometimes. I also loved it because, two of the charecters Cody and Ned tell from thier perspectives. Last I loved that all the charecters have very unique traits. Such as: Ned, has a loving heart unlike other trolls. Cody can talk to animals unlike other humans.
Available Sept. 19 2017
Available March 1 2017
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
Reviewed by Casey Martinson
One day, Meredith Oliver stops into the local Deli Barn for an after school root beer. The only other customer is Lisa Bellow, her eighth-grade nemesis and certified mean girl. A masked man walks in with a gun, robs the place, and kidnaps Lisa on his way out the door. Meredith is left behind.
The double narrative that develops in the wake of this crime is a mystery story that asks not so much “who done it,” but “what the hell does it all mean, anyway?” As survivor guilt turns to obsession, Meredith descends into a kind of underworld of radical introspection, and her mother Claire is compelled to follow. Her brother and father wave their arms and shout from the Stygian banks, well meaning, but useless. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. It is a dark journey, and despite the hellfire flashes of wit, one begins to have serious doubts that things will end well.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to resist the pull of these characters. The novel begins with Meredith telling her reflection, “This is me. This is really me. … This is my real life.” The uncertainty belied by these affirmations is no doubt the prerogative of every teen crossing the liminal wilds of adolescence. Who is she and what does she want from life? The trauma of seeing her enemy--snatched away in broad daylight--denied the opportunity to ask these very questions, only intensifies their urgency.
Claire meanwhile grapples with the prerogative of every former teen who has survived to adulthood: a dawning realization that the liminal wilds go on and on. To each age, a new set of anxieties. For Claire, parenting Meredith is akin to scaling “the flat face of a mountain range...without ropes, without safety equipment, and without a canteen and power bars.” Of course, she has other problems too: marital discontent, the ghost of her mother, a stubborn son bent on breaking his own heart.
Perabo writes with great compassion for her characters, even when their own compassion is failing. There are no innocent bystanders in this story, but aside from the kidnapper, there are no real villains either. For a novel that prizes interiority, The Fall of Lisa Bellow is never ponderous or dull. It offers that rare combination of keen writing that is eminently accessible and at the same time worthy of close reading--a real accomplishment.