The first young adult book by a #1 New York Times bestselling author
Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it’s a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn’t suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear “whispers”–the thoughts of others–Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection.
This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.
You can read an excerpt here.
If I had to sum this book up in one word, that word would be: anticlimactic.
I mean, is there anything more frustrating than a slow burner of a mystery that sputters, fizzles and dies out in the end? Now it’s not that I have something against the genre – generally speaking, I rather enjoy a slow burn, and my unholy love of PBS has led me to watch and read many a cozy mystery – but while George had me right up until the end of this story, once the ending did arrive, all I could think was – really? That’s it? That’s IT?!? All that build up, for THIS? And then, to add insult to injury, George threw in a cheap, exploitative cliffhanger as a denouement, and I all but drop-kicked the book out of my room. And honestly my residual annoyance is still so strong, I seriously doubt I’ll be picking up the next book.
Elizabeth George and I have something of a history, however – I haven’t read the Inspector Lynley mysteries (the series for which George is renowned), but I have watched the PBS series, based on her books – and honestly it was never my cup of tea, simply because I never could quite warm up to the characters. Lynley annoyed me, and I loathed his love interest/wife to such a degree that I was actively rooting for her to die in every episode. The plotting of the mysteries themselves was always interesting, and the character work always nuanced and layered, but there was just something about it all that I didn’t like – and now, with George’s first YA offering, I find myself running up against the same problem. I can’t fault George’s writing ability – her atmospherics are lovely; her character work nuanced – and yet once again I find myself without any particular reason to care, without any real attachment to any of the characters.
That said, I did think the opening of this book was wonderful. I was quickly caught up by Becca’s dangerous situation, and I enjoyed the paranormal touch her ability brought to the story. It was just enough to add an interesting complication to her life without ever being too overt or distracting, and it fell neatly into that realm where psychics and horoscopes lie – something that fits comfortably within our everyday world. I also very much enjoyed Becca’s gradual acclimatization to small town life – how colorful the characters she met there were, and how precarious her situation was, trying to stay unnoticed in a place where everyone knows everything about each other. But from then on, well, the story started to drag, and I started to get restless. The characters, instead of getting more interesting, started to get on my nerves, and worse, as the mysteriousness of each character was slowly unraveled, as their hinted at secrets and lies were gradually brought out into the light, it all turned out to be kind of ridiculously anticlimactic. Everything everyone was hiding and lying and being suspicious about turned out to be, frankly, just not all that dark or deep or interesting – and I ended up feeling out and out manipulated. There really was just no earthly reason for everyone to be so secretive, and it all ended up feeling like pure author contrivance – though I do wonder if part of the reason it felt that way was because George had to pull back, to not go as dark as she wanted to go, to keep her story within the YA realm. But when revelation after revelation turned out to be just not all that revelatory, it all left me feeling distinctly disgruntled.
And yet, despite all that, there still is definitely something to this story – the way Becca has to chose who to trust, the way her ability complicates her life, the all too real fears of a teen abandoned and teetering on the edge of disaster, that was all wonderful. I think part of why I became so frustrated with this story in the end was because the build up was, in some ways, effective – it just didn’t go anywhere at all.
And so, in the end, I find myself egregiously dissatisfied with this story. George is not an untalented author, but this book just does not work.
Byrt Grade: B/B-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Oh man, where do I begin with this mess…just because a writer can write a good adult mystery does not mean she/he is cut out for writing YA fiction. This book is the perfect example of why adult fiction writers should not write YA just because it’s popular and seems easy. Guess what- it isn’t.
The mystery is slight and unlikely, with few clues, and the investigation and Derric’s stay in the hospital drag on for too long.