Drug cartel violence spills across the border, forever changing the lives of teens in the small town of Tanner, Texas, in Banerjee’s debut novel.
Cade seems to be the classic boy next door—farmer’s son and star quarterback—when he stumbles upon a young woman with piercing blue eyes clinging to life in his family’s corn field. Cade is understanding of Jane Doe’s desire to keep her violent past a secret and vows to help her find freedom, but the more involved he becomes, the less either of them can hide the truth of their lives. The simmering affection between Cade and Jane adds a strong romantic subplot to a novel which otherwise reads like a thriller. However, several details of the setting ring false, likely distracting readers familiar with Texas. The pacing is also awkward at times, as violence strikes early and often, making it difficult to maintain the suspense, and a weekend tryst on South Padre Island does little to advance plot or characterization. Though the book takes on tough issues surrounding drug cartels, alcoholism, and foster care, to name a few, the issues with setting and plot make the story too clunky for these to shine. Cade and Jane both read as white, though there are many strong Latinx supporting characters, including Cade’s best friend, Mateo.
A rough cut in need of sharper editing to truly make the facets shine. (Thriller. 14-18)