A teenager must unravel the mysteries behind her family’s many tragedies in this first installment of a YA trilogy.
Anastasia Phoenix has had more than her fair share of uncertainty and misfortune. Her parents were biochemical engineers who created the Dresden Chemical Corporation with their best friend. But their work meant they often dragged Anastasia and her older sister, Keira, from country to country, never settling in one place for long. After Anastasia finds out that they plan to uproot the family again mere months after settling in Boston, she refuses to move. She gets her wish in the worst way possible: her parents die, leaving her Keira’s ward and ensuring she won’t be relocating soon. Now, three years later, Anastasia is 17, and Keira has disappeared after a party. Though the crime scene contains enough blood that it seems doubtful that Keira survived, Anastasia is sure she is alive. Anastasia finds evidence pointing her toward an Italian family that knows her parents—and suggests that there is more to their deaths than she realizes. Along with Marcus Rey, an attractive new student and son of Dresden Chemical employees, she travels to Italy to try to discover information about her family. While there, she learns about her parents’ clandestine past. But the more she unearths, the more she apprehends that few people in her life are who she thinks they are. Though Rodriguez Wallach (Mirror, Mirror, 2013, etc.) spices up her novel with exotic locales and intriguing love interests, the tale is ultimately more predictable than exciting. In trying to give her audience hints, the author overemphasizes certain clues and characters until readers have almost certainly guessed plot twists many chapters before they are meant to be revealed. Anastasia also emerges as an uneven character, teetering between believable—as a grieving, bullheaded teenager trying to navigate the guilt of enjoying a new crush while also investigating her sister and parents—and too good to be true. She’s fluent in four languages, a karate black belt, able to identify someone’s city of origin by hearing the person speak a single word, and lucky to have a twentysomething roommate who can hack police databases in under an hour.
A tale where the heroine’s experiences as a grieving daughter and sister seem far more meaningful than any family secrets.