Two teens with different life circumstances are drawn together in this thriller featuring a mystery set in their Ohio town’s public library.
When privileged, funny, and kind Spencer gets busted for breaking a library window while climbing the outside of the building, he winds up doing community service there to make amends. It doesn’t take him long to notice smart, self-possessed Mallory, who spends long hours in the library since leaving home due to the unsettling behavior of her domineering stepfather. In short chapters that alternate between the two in first-person narration, their story unfolds, blending with an eerie subplot about strange and frightening occurrences that happen largely after hours within the library. Though there’s never much doubt that they will become romantically involved, care is taken to develop both characters, including their places within their families—Spencer, adopted by loving and extremely wealthy parents, acutely feels the weight of their expectations, while Mallory’s heart-rending experience of being homeless and worrying about her mom, who’s pregnant, is poignantly told. Spencer is described as having bronze skin, which differs from his adoptive family’s pale blondness. Mallory is implied white. There is some ethnic diversity among secondary characters, including Mallory’s best friend, Lana, whose Venezuelan family is struggling following her dad’s and brother’s deportations.
A taut, compelling mystery and a compassionate realistic fiction novel all in one. (Thriller. 14-18)