A family’s search for a missing teenage girl leads the police close to home while the victim is locked in a cellar with no way out in Ransom’s debut YA novel.
High school student Sierra Hart wakes up alone in a strange room and finds a cryptic note from an unseen captor with instructions for her to take care of herself with the supplies provided—including a bed, an exercise bike, and some canned goods—until she’s released. A suspicious group of friends and family members share what they know about Sierra in alternating chapters, as if a television news program is interviewing them—a promising hook for readers. There’s Sierra’s dad, a gambling addict with a criminal record; her mom, a loving but lonely doctor; and her ex-boyfriend, Dave, who hopes to win her back from his rival, Gavin, who recently transferred to her school. FBI agents don’t have much physical evidence, so they interrogate members of Sierra’s inner and outer circles in search of a motive. Their suspects are complex and very human characters—Sierra’s jailbird father, for example, has a charming side, and even her sensible mother seems to wilt in his absence. Dave, who’s swoon-worthy but hopelessly foolish, relies on members of his powerful family at the expense of his reputation. Fun-loving Gavin, like Sierra, has family secrets that he’d like to forget. Meanwhile, Sierra herself updates her journal from her holding cell to pass the time. Her efforts to entertain herself—creating tin foil dioramas, inventing new recipes for Cheerios and pasta shells—are a bright spot in the darkness that surrounds her. As she re-examines her relationships, Sierra wavers between her desire to trust others and her need to protect herself. Author Ransom offers touching moments, such as Sierra’s account of an accidental movie date with her mother, to show Sierra’s compassion and fortitude as she recounts the series of bad breaks and awkward situations that led to her kidnapping and—she hopes—her eventual rescue. This riveting novel shows that there’s more to Sierra’s seemingly idyllic teenage life than track meets, pool parties, and gossiping on the phone with her best friend—and when all is revealed, her reaction to her kidnapper is the biggest surprise of all.
Hope and humor buoy tales of complicated relationships and old traumas in this fast-paced manhunt.