Paranormal author Preble (The A-Word, 2014, etc.) crosses over to straight teen fiction with this drama wrapped in a mystery.
Studious Leo and artistic older sister Paris live in Las Vegas with their mother and stepfather (“Tommy Davis, who shouldn’t be anybody’s idea of permanent, only our mother married him anyway”). Leo studies for the SAT and dreams of her escape; “eventually I will be something…maybe even a surgeon. Surgeons don’t hesitate once they’ve decided what they need to do.” For now, the sisters watch out for each other—at least they do until Paris sets Leo up with Max and then drops out of sight, leaving behind a scavenger hunt of worrisome clues that draws Leo and Max together. A road trip (complete with analysis of the metaphorical content of country songs and the sharing of life-altering secrets) ensues as messages from Paris increase in urgency. With her lodestar AWOL, Leo is forced to consider whom to trust and who is really protecting whom. Adults are somewhat clichéd (waitress-with-a-heart-of-gold, creepy stepdad, distracted mom), but the teens have character and complexity to spare. Leo’s heart may pound, hop, race, skip, skitter and thud, but her straight-A, Stanford-bound personality has depth, and the more mercurial—and mostly absent—Paris remains engaging and believable.
Fast-paced with intriguing teen characters, a budding relationship and a bit of mystery—curiosity will keep those pages turning. (Fiction. 13-17)