The loss in this book is so gripping and so present that it’s like its very own character. My heart broke for Thomas. Can you imagine being in such a horrible situation? Accused of murdering your mother in a new town surrounded by strangers who all think you did it? And then to have to live with your dead mother’s new husband because you have nowhere else to go? No one else to turn to? Trapped. If I had to choose one word to describe Thomas, that’s the one I’d use. Trapped by his situation, his emotions, his loneliness and other people’s isolating perceptions of him.
I liked Thomas from the start but even as I was sympathizing with him and wanting to defend him against all the jerks in that small-minded town, as the story advanced, doubts kept popping into my head until I felt as if I were playing Whack-a-Mole with my own brain.
“No, he couldn’t.”
“But what if…”
“Shut up, brain! Just shut up and read!”
I enjoy it when I can’t predict what’s going to happen in a book, and I definitely felt like I was on shaky ground with each turn of the page. Even the paranormal element of the story was a total surprise to me. I knew there was something going on, but I never guessed what. The uncertainty was a driving force throughout the story and really ratcheted up the tension.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I hate spoilers, so I’ll just say that in the end, there are some resolutions, some remaining mysteries, and enough unanswered questions for a potential sequel, and I certainly hope so because I am not ready to leave the lives of these characters. I often have a hard time liking female leads in YA Fiction. So many come off as needy or silly or just plain dumb, but not Charlotte. I loved how Kemmerer wrote this hormonal teenager who makes really questionable decisions without ever seeming stupid or naïve. How many times does a girl sneak off to meet an alleged killer and not seem like an idiot? Not very often, but Charlotte is not like that. She is brave and compassionate and ready to defend herself. She has doubts and fears and overcomes both to do what she feels is right. Teen lit needs more characters like her.
And more authors like Kemmerer. I really enjoyed how she kept so much tension throughout the story while still making me laugh out loud. I mean, this is a heavy, weighted situation and yet, “Princess Sparklepants?” Hahahaha! And I loved, loved, loved Nicole. She’s funny and quick-witted and everything a BFF should be. Which leads to another strength of this author: secondary characters. I hesitate to use the term secondary because they are too developed to fall into that category. Kemmerer has a knack for letting us know instantly who these minor characters are despite the lesser amount of ink they get. Charlotte’s brothers are a prime example of this as well as Stan, who not only doesn’t get a lot of ink but also says very little, but even his small scenes and few words tell us readers so much about him. I would have liked to see more of him. What’s his life like after Marie? I wanted more of Charlotte’s brothers and Nicole as well. So, while I am very satisfied with this stand-alone novel, I will still be crossing my fingers for a sequel.
Whether it’s the Thicker Than Water cast or a whole new group of characters, I can’t wait to see what Kemmerer brings us next.