A white California teenager must grapple with the unknown after her father goes missing while on assignment in Ukraine.
Seventeen-year-old Charlotte is used to her journalist dad’s traveling to faraway places to cover the aftermath of natural disasters. His latest assignment takes him to Ukraine to cover the aftermath of a major earthquake; when an aftershock causes an explosion in the region where he was working, Charlotte and her mother receive news that he has gone missing. The plot thickens further when the FBI comes knocking to reveal that her father was kidnapped by a rebel group demanding a ransom for his release. Charlotte’s feelings of helplessness and anxiety over the situation are compounded by her tenuous relationship with her Russian-immigrant mother, whose distance and reserve are the results of old traumas. Charlotte copes by weaving tales from Russian folklore throughout her story as a way of coming to terms with her own personal struggles. When her frustration with the FBI’s lack of progress reaches a breaking point, she relies on her friends to help her take matters in her own hands. Devlin’s prose is uneven in this outing, lyrical at the start but growing staccato along the way; it loses steam at the end as it drifts toward a neat and anticlimactic conclusion. Russian dialogue is sprinkled throughout, though those familiar with the language are likely to find it unconvincing.
An exploration of Russian folklore as metaphor adds an intriguing element to an otherwise lackluster story. (Fiction. 14-18)