There are mean girls and queen bees—and then there’s Britney Matson, who makes the rest look like hopeless amateurs.
This sophomore outing for Cooper picks up where Vanished (2015) left off: narrator Kalah Richards is convinced that Brit has gotten away with the murder of their mutual best friend, Beth, who was also involved in a budding romance with Kalah. Brit’s wealth, poise, and “blond all-American looks” have everyone fooled, but Kalah is convinced that if only she keeps a close enough watch, Brit will slip. Unfortunately Kalah struggles with anxiety as well as grief, and her emotional fragility leads even her family and former boyfriend to regard her as unstable and untrustworthy. Brit outflanks Kalah at every turn, ratcheting the tension up to nearly unbearable levels. Kalah’s ethnicity and sexual orientation are treated matter-of-factly—refreshingly not turned into causes for angst. Yet Cooper’s treatment of her protagonist’s South Asian heritage is disappointingly superficial, giving it passing mentions of curry, saris, Gandhi, and Hinduism. Kalah’s paralysis and naiveté are frustrating at times, but they fill out a sympathetic and realistic portrait of the profound impact of bullying. While the essentials of the back story are woven skillfully into this novel and it can stand alone, it will best be appreciated by those who read Vanished.
A taut thriller about a psychopath loose in the halls of a suburban high school. (Mystery. 14-18)