Are You Still There? is a YA suspense read centered around an episode of school violence

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Are You Still There? is a YA suspense read centered around an episode of school violence

I thought the summary for this book wasn’t as compelling as it should have been, but don’t dismiss it at first glance.  If you like realistic, contemporary teen suspense/thrillers, this book should be on your radar.  This fast and engaging read is a good mix of mystery and relevance, with characters who actually feel like real teens.  I gave it four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?

My Thoughts

This was a well written YA suspense/thriller that kept me guessing and second guessing right up to the end.  While the focus of the story is the unknown bomber, subplots that incorporate romance and friendship add depth.  I liked the primary narrator, Gabi.  She is being driven by her mother’s ambitions, and the bombing incident is the impetus for change in her rather isolated life.  Lots of readers will be able to relate to her growth in this story.  The secondary narrator, the bomber who calls himself Stranger, adds a lot to the story, but his chapters are pretty creepy, and I almost dreaded them.  Secondary characters added comic relief to what could have been a rather depressing read.  There are some typical teen scary movie elements, including threatening notes in lockers, strange phone calls, and stupid decisions and risks on the part of the protagonist, but they were well implemented to increase the tension.  This book does sometimes get a little heavy on “teen issues,” but I believe they are presented in a way that allow readers to think about their own actions without feeling like they are reading a morality tale. I think my high school readers will find this compelling, and I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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