Nothing can draw me in faster than an unsolved mystery. Seriously, I just lost three hours of my life watching people not solve the mystery of Roanoake Island last night. I blame this entirely on my childhood obsession with the show Unsolved Mysteries (again, Mom, kind of inappropriate viewing for a pre-tween). I bet if I counted up all of my DVRed shows, at least half of them are dedicated to finding Atlantis, the Black Dahlia murderer or King Arthur’s tomb. That means I was really ready to embrace this book, and that means I was a bit disappointed when the mystery kept getting shoved to the side for some teen love drama. Actually, I think the mystery is almost solved by the premise, but I honestly liked this male protagonist, so I enjoyed the book more than my head says I should have. I gave this book three stars.
In 1985, high school senior Jake Weathers stumbles upon a clue to a decades-old mystery… The day after their graduation in 1961, Kate Delisle and Trish Hawthorne left Weston, Massachusettts and were never seen again. When he discovers a note Trish wrote to Kate the day before their disappearance, Jake decides it’s his destiny to solve the oldest cold case in the state. He’s fascinated by the story, because sometimes he wants to disappear too, and leave his father in the rear view mirror. Jake needs help in his investigation, and reluctantly turns to the annoying and spoiled Julie St. Hilaire… Julie would have been Trish’s niece and has the inside track to information about the reclusive, wealthy Hawthorne family. As they chase down leads, the personality clash between Jake and Julie simmers down, and Jake finds it impossible to ignore the growing attraction between them. Jake and Julie find more than they bargained for… Jake suspects Kate and Trish had been living a lie and hiding dangerous secrets. As the mystery unravels, he and Julie start to dread what they might discover about the fate of the missing girls. Some cold cases should not be solved… This could be one of them.
I think one of the best elements of this book is the male narrative voice, Jake. He is believably a teen guy, struggling with the conflicts that most people face in real life, and I liked his perspective on other characters. I thought his complete inability to pick up on signals from the opposite sex came across as authentic, and it certainly made for some drama in the romantic relationships in the story. This drama does, at times, overshadow the mystery and I thought that was a bit of a shame. I was unsure if the drama was merely there to make the timeline of the investigation seem more realistic, but there were times when I wanted the pace to pick up and the plot to focus more clearly on the mystery. Alas, I am old and had little interest in this much detail about the romantic kerfuffles of a teen boy, so the target audience might feel just the opposite. At least he wasn’t portrayed as only interested in one thing, and that is refreshing. The mystery was a bit of a disappointment for me because it took me about three seconds to grasp what it took the teens in the story a long time to put together (at least it took a while for Jake). I was curious about how it would resolve, but there was a lot of focus on the “why” that felt repetitive. I thought the teens came across as quite progressive in their thinking for average small town kids in the 1980’s, and while I enjoyed all the references to one of my favorite eras, I have to question if this was the right era to set the story. I’m not sure who I would recommend this book to because Jake’s voice would make this a great book for guys, but the romantic relationships might make for an annoyance for many of my high school male readers. I liked the book myself, but I did think it could have been more compactly paced, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It felt like I deserved more for all the time I put into it. I was rather baffled by the epilogue because it sort of threw the narrative perspective off for the book as a whole -it kind of busted through the wall between audience and narrator in a way that was never hinted at until then, but I was grateful for the resolutions I got there. Some language, but very light sensuality, so it is appropriate for high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.