In a fast-moving and well-constructed mystery, three teen volunteer members of a search-and-rescue team track a serial killer targeting homeless teen girls in Portland, Oregon.
An experienced SAR member is supposed to accompany every search party, but an error lands new volunteers Ruby, Nick and Alexis alone together on their first call. Other team members quickly locate the man who is the target of their search, but the three teens find something else: the body of a recently dead girl. Each teen comes from a unique and compellingly drawn background, expressed with impressive effectiveness given how quickly the plot moves. Nick, whose father died in the Iraq War, has joined SAR in hopes of both living up to his father’s legacy and impressing girls. Timid but capable Alexis pushes others away to stop them from discovering that she spends most of her time and energy managing her mother’s mental illness. Ruby in particular stands out. Her socially unacceptable but genuinely felt exuberance at participating in a murder investigation is frowned upon by parents and police but lovingly conveyed through enthusiastic dialogue and narrative asides. Short, obsessive chapters from the unidentified killer’s point of view add to the suspense, and enough clues are dropped as to the killer’s identity that astute readers will be able to solve the puzzle before the final, high-stakes climax.
A quick, thrilling read that doesn’t skimp on characterization. (Mystery. 12-18)