In this thriller, a missing teen reappears with amnesia and uncovers a host of parlous secrets buried in her gradually returning memory.
When Californian Rachel Evans wakes up in a ditch, it’s been two weeks since she inexplicably disappeared. But Rachel can’t remember the last year of her life. She hardly recognizes herself, surprised by her Goth style and the fact that Dylan McCarthy, the guy she’s been crushing on for years, is apparently her boyfriend. Rachel attracts the attention of FBI agent Ryan Bennet, investigating missing girls who also vanished after school but, unlike Rachel, never came back. Filling in her memory gaps isn’t easy; Rachel gets intermittent flashes, but her so-called friends, including head cheerleader Lauren Maxwell, are reluctant to provide her with specifics. One thing’s for sure: her preference of handling a confrontation with her fists rather than talking it out feels like a fairly new trait. Rachel knows she’s onto something when she finds a list she’d generated of girls’ names and addresses, at least one from Bennet’s case. Following the lead will take Rachel into a seedy underground world that she’s slowly starting to remember. There are individuals, however, who want to keep this world hidden. They have already gone to great lengths—and will again—to ensure it stays that way. Destefano (Fathom, 2012, etc.) sets a near-perfect tempo for her narrative. Rather than saving a hefty twist for the end, she systematically reveals pieces of a mystery as the story progresses. It’s an apt teen drama as well, with the 17-year-old having to mend her friendship with Molly McFadden, whom Rachel, as far as she can tell, abandoned for the popular crowd. Rachel, though, is indelible, favoring commiseration over self-pity—sympathizing with younger brother Kyle’s pain for his then-missing sister. Readers will likely notice a passing resemblance to a well-known novel (divulging its title would be a spoiler), but Destefano doesn’t rehash the plot, opting to reinterpret it for a markedly different protagonist. The payoff isn’t quite as dynamic as its buildup, but the ending more than satisfies, allowing both the book to stand on its own and create potential for a continuation or spinoff.
A concise, bold crime tale that, even in its darkest moments, shines with brilliance.