Like a PG-13 version of Gone Girl (2012), Balog’s (Dead River, 2013, etc.) latest tells the tense and tragic story of three teens mixed up in a world of murder, obsession, and mental illness.
Sixteen-year-old Victoria Zell, a loner suffering from severe anxiety, spends her days feeling trapped at St. Ann’s, a Catholic school in Bangor, Maine. Vic wants only to spend time with Andrew, her longtime boyfriend and best friend. Andrew understands her, and like Vic, Andrew suffers from his own debilitating condition: agoraphobia. The two are inseparable—until Zachary “Z” Zimmerman arrives at St. Ann’s. Z’s arrival spells trouble for Vic as she teeters between her loyalty to the safe and loving Andrew and her desire, bordering on obsession, for Z, who is full of mystery and danger. Vic sometimes reads as a naïve Catholic schoolgirl, a familiar stereotype, but her account, addressed to Andrew with each chapter preceded by police interviews, news updates, and coroner’s reports, is nevertheless a compelling one. The portrayal of mental illness seems authentic, but readers should recognize that Vic is entangled in a web of unhealthy relationships, especially with Z, who treats her like a puppy. Vic is white, with “stick-straight beige hair,” the charismatic Z has tan skin, golden hair, and blue eyes, and Andrew’s race is unclear.
A page-turner that will keep readers riveted, this is a treat for mystery fans and will keep readers guessing right up until the end. (Thriller. 14-18)