In this debut YA sci-fi thriller, a teenager helps to heal victims of sexual abuse while trying to uncover the shocking secrets of his own mysterious past.
Sixteen-year-old Hunter remembers nothing about his life before he finds himself attending high school in Alaska. He has been told that his mother and younger brother died in an automobile accident four years previously, but he has no memory of that event, the bike mishap that is said to have caused the scars all over his body, or his supposed home schooling, which has left him uncertain about how to relate to his peers. His father, Joe, is no help, responding to his questions by saying only, “Leave the past alone.” But the past will not leave Hunter alone, as his mind is invaded by visions full of frightening and shameful sexuality—other people’s stories that seem to demand that he write them down even though he does not understand their origin. In school, he meets Jasmine “Jazz” Williams, a tough and vulnerable misfit with her own alarming secrets. Together, Hunter and Jazz investigate the roots and effects of his tales, discovering that they have an almost miraculous ability to erase the wounds of the past. While Jazz and Hunter have finally found someone to whom they can show their scars, Joe is terrified by the damage that may be caused if his son’s painful memories are finally unleashed. Skipstone’s narrative treads the edge between realistic YA literature and sci-fi grounded in computer logic, in which memories can be stored and retrieved externally. While the concept of Hunter’s access to memories that are not his own may be fanciful, the author’s portrayal of the lasting devastation caused by sexual abuse is deeply felt and convincing. Skipstone’s foreword warns that the graphic scenes of sexual violence may be triggering to some young readers but argues that the victims of such crimes deserve to have their stories told. As Hunter says, “One reason this stuff keeps happening is because it’s kept secret.”
A powerful, original examination of the nature of memory and the effects of childhood abuse that’s framed as a suspense tale.