Trauma lurks behind the facade of normalcy in Jessica Knoll’s “Luckiest Girl Alive.” A writer for a women’s magazine in New York City, Ani is planning her wedding to the perfect guy, until her past intrudes,and a documentary of her high school years brings her back to face her demons. Alternating between flashbacks to the horrors of her teen years and Ani’s present day life as a twenty-something, Knoll slowly builds the drama until the past is revealed in miserable true-crime-story increments.
Although the reader is lulled into thinking the worst has happened, the surprise reveal to Ani’s past life elevates the story to more than just another tale of a dark and twisted beauty. Among the spate of recent fiction featuring girl characters with issues, Ani turns out to be redeemable, and the ending is both believable and satisfying.
The story is fast-paced with markers building to the unexpected shocking incident. You will keep reading to solve the mystery of Ani’s past; I read the book in a day.
If S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep was too scary for you, but you like the idea of waking up every morning with a clean slate, try Cat Patrick’s teen take on amnesia in Forgotten. London Lane can see the future every day, but then forgets what happened to her yesterday; she wakes up with her forecasts, but no memory of anything that happened the day before. She keeps a daily log, and writes notes to herself, but sometimes get lost in the details – just like many of us who walk into a room and wonder what we were looking for.
London keeps her Cassandra-like tendencies to herself, not warning her high school friends about bad choices that seem to be leading to miserable future lives. She still believes in free will; maybe something will happen to change their future after all, and then she discovers she can manipulate and change the future for the better. A mysterious flash-forward to a funeral creates a mystery to solve, and London’s strange memory disorder helps her solve it.
An easy fast read with a strange twist – young adult mystery – a nice change of pace.
Who doesn’t like a snow day – no school, no work – cozy around the fire or out building a snowman? But a Northeast blizzard is not fun, and can be lethal. In his young adult fiction, Trapped, Michael Northrup explores how people react and survive when a blizzard traps seven high school students in their school – with no prospects of being rescued.
Do you remember that survival game – if you could only pick five people from the boat to accompany you on the life raft, who you would you pick? Who would give you the best chance to make it? In this story, the party consist of Les, street-wise and the high school degenerate, Elijah, the loner who likes the library, two girls, one basketball player (who is the narrator), a mechanically inclined shop class enthusiast, and a nerd. Who would have the best chance to survive? Who would have the skills to help the others?
“When the snow buried the first floor, we moved to the second. When the heat and water went out, we built a little fire and melted snow.”
Days go by; they eat canned peaches and peanut butter from the cafeteria. Their thoughts rally around food, girl-boy connections, and rivalries – this is high school. The high point is the radio station program they can play; the low point when they realize that noone knows they are there. Then, part of the roof collapses, and someone must go out for help. The ending is dramatic and abrupt, and not everyone survives.
Trapped is a suspenseful easy read; all that snow might cool you down on a hot summer day.
High school reunions can be cathartic or catastrophic – depending on expectations. In The Last Time I Saw You, Elizabeth Berg follows a group of anxious revelers at their fortieth reunion in an examination at how assumptions can skew perceptions of others’ lives.
As always, Berg is an easy read, with surprises to spice up the plot. Her characters never fall into stereotypes, but she teases you with that possibility as she starts her story with old high school gossiping and rivalries. Instead, Berg develops her story into a realistic and touching view of lives as they deal with universal problems.
The grass is always greener, and the characters are not who they seem to their classmates; all are dealing with their inner demons. Candy, the class beauty and envy of all the girls has just been diagnosed with cancer; Dorothy, another in the popular crowd, has had her self-confidence shattered in her divorce; Pete, the class heart throb and philanderer, is trying to win back his wife; Lester, a widower and veterinarian, is lonely. As they play “the game of truth,” as part of the reunion festivities, aging revelers are forced to face each other’s anxieties as well as their own, and Berg’s observations offer an inside view of how her characters cope.
A thoughtful read, with a little soap opera quality, The Last Time I Saw You, ends with everyone finding out more about themselves – maybe even the reader.