The opening chapters of Coley’s debut for teens will chill readers to the bone—unfortunately, the rest of the novel fails to deliver.
The haunting description of 13-year-old Angela Chapman’s abduction from a Girl Scout camping trip and her mysterious return three years later has all the makings of a deeply disturbing but satisfying psychological thriller. With a combination of third-person narration and first-hand accounts by the multiple personalities Angie’s created to protect herself from the trauma of her abduction and sexual exploitation, the structure of the novel is innovative and rich with potential. Rather than reveling in the complexities of Angie’s broken psyche, however, the story spoon-feeds readers critical pieces far too quickly. For example, the day after her miraculous return, Angie has her first therapy session, at which she falls immediately under hypnosis and leaves with a diagnosis. Readers are cheated out of the pleasure of suspense. For a novel about a young girl’s miraculous return to her family and community, there is also a surprising and disappointing lack of emotion. Even though her friends thought she must have been dead, Angie’s return to La Cañada High School feels more like the popular girl coming home after a stint in rehab than the return of someone who has survived the truly unimaginable.
It simply doesn’t ring true. (Psychological thriller. 14 & up)