Ruthie will stop at nothing to find her missing best friend.
After her mother dies, Ruthie Hayden returns to her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. Though she isn’t keen on living with her now-sober father, she’s ecstatic to be reunited with her best friend, Zahra Gaines. Traces of their friendship still linger in scrawled script on playground equipment, but Zahra is gone. At first, it’s assumed she ran off with her boyfriend, Ben Peavy, but when he returns from a camping trip alone, Zahra is declared missing. Ruthie immediately becomes obsessed with finding her. She ingratiates herself with Zahra’s friends, investigates places she frequented, and even follows Ben. It quickly becomes clear that Zahra hid things from everyone around her and struggled with secret trauma. The more Ruthie learns, the less she feels like she really knew Zahra—but maybe, she thinks, she’s the only one who does. Ruthie hurtles toward the truth, propelled by a need to find out where Zahra is now and what dark forces drew her there yet not ready for what she might find. Ruthie’s desperate quest to find her friend thrums at a fever pitch. The reveal of Zahra’s fate unfolds in an eerie crescendo that’s both well earned and unnerving. Zahra is biracial (black/white), and Ben is Koyukon Athabaskan. The author includes thoughtful commentary about the ways that Zahra’s and Ben’s races affect their treatments as victim and suspect.
Gripping and unsettling. (Mystery 14-18)