Twelve years on, Rachel Bachton’s abduction still haunts everyone in Sugar Creek—especially the new girl in town.
While at the beach watching his 4-year-old twin sisters (who are the same age Rachel was when someone kidnapped her), Josh Michaels meets newcomer Chatham Claiborne. Besides the instant physical attraction, the teens, both presumably white, also connect because of their broken home lives. Chatham ran away from her foster parents in Georgia to this small town outside of Chicago, hoping to track down her foster sister, who thinks she remembers details of Rachel’s disappearance. Josh tries to help Chatham but is often sidetracked by his single mother’s manipulation and ex-stepfather’s domestic abuse. As the two storylines converge, the thriller occasionally waxes (when the teens piece together their own clues) but often wanes (due to repetition as well as unbelievable and confusing details). The real strength of the book emerges through Josh’s coming-of-age, as more attention is given to his growing independence, relationship with his mother, and sexual awakening. When Chatham begins to recall her own memories of Rachel’s fateful final day, the thriller kicks into overdrive with a rushed, yet tidy, conclusion to the mystery.
Though weaker as a thriller, Josh’s narrative may appeal to readers trying to understand societal roles for men, especially in the context of domestic abuse. (Thriller. 14-18)