Plot: This novel's plot tells the story in a well-paced, suspenseful manner. The strategy of switching between Zach's and Jessie's POV is very effective both for revealing bits and pieces of the story/backstory and for building tension as the novel reaches its climax.
Prose/Style: The author's prose style is very readable, almost transparent in the way it falls away in service to the story. At the same time, the text is beautifully written, with precise language and startling imagery. Third-person narration helps readers remain oriented despite chapter-by-chapter POV switches that create convincing and distinctively individual character perspectives.
Originality: This book gives fresh treatment to routine story elements like abused/neglected teens, arson, and missing persons. The story is compelling, even though the "crimes" at its heart don't develop or resolve in a way that completely satisfies the mystery genre's expectations for "justice."
Character Development: The characters are well-drawn and original, with exceptional attention to small details that bring them convincingly to life. For example, although the tomboy aspects of Jessie's character sometimes slide close to skateboard-culture cliché, as much of her behavior is influenced by ongoing distress over outgrowing her one, ratty sports bra and the complete lack of support, understanding, or even awareness she gets from her grief-distracted mother.
Date Submitted: May 25, 2019