In debut author Foster’s harrowing modern-day adventure, a West Virginia teen’s golden opportunity to appear in a Hollywood film turns into a fight for survival.
It’s been a matter of months since 16-year-old Teagan “Tia” McSherry lost both her parents in a car accident. The family had been living in poverty, and it’s now up to Tia and her twin brother, Finn, to care for their two younger brothers. Tia, yearning for a “Golden Ticket” á la Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, may have her sign of hope: a golden maple leaf falls into her hand. The twins find work as rafting guides and cross paths with movie producer Mikael Rossi, who offers them both small, well-compensated roles in an American film that will shoot in Chile and Brazil. They accept; somewhere in the Amazon jungle, however, a group attacks the twins and takes Tia hostage. Tia’s kidnappers—a cartel as it turns out—torture her. But the ever-resolute teen holds onto the hope that someday, whether by rescue or escape, she’ll be free of her confinement and suffering. The first third of Foster’s debut novel sets the stage for Tia’s traumatic experience. It effectively establishes Tia as likable lead; while in California, she gives her Hollywood spending cash to a homeless man. Scenes of Tia with her captors are unflinchingly harsh and include rape and other abuse. But Foster’s deft writing can generate tension by mere suggestion; there are instances when Tia hears screams and gunshots and doesn’t know whose body causes a subsequent “muffled thump.” The methodically drawn-out plot also allows the protagonist to mature. She, for example, becomes a surrogate mother to a little girl and comes to realize her life of poverty in West Virginia is not as merciless as what victims of human traffickers endure.
A bleak but ultimately rewarding tale of a kidnapped teenager’s resilience.