Take the Fall
Balzer + Bray, February 2016
From the publisher—
WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?
Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information. . . . Could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus—the artist, the screw-up, the boy she might be falling for—have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night . . . who could it have been?
From the moment Sonia stumbles out of Hidden Falls Park, battered and frightened nearly to death, her family and the local police are full of questions about what could have happened and then word spreads that her best friend, Gretchen, is missing. Not long after, Gretchen’s body is found at the bottom of the falls and suspicion soon points to Gretchen’s former boyfriend, Marcus. His arrest doesn’t lead to comfort, though, because he has an alibi and is released.
Tension rides high in this story as Sonia becomes more and more desperate to remember enough details of her attack to help find the killer. Out of desperation to get back to as normal a life as possible, she returns to school and to the circle of friends who were actually better friends in past years. As time goes by, Sonia begins to acknowledge that, perhaps, Gretchen was not such a great friend but she also begins to have serious doubts about some of the people around her. Could one of them be the killer?
Sonia is a very likeable girl if far too impulsive and she matures in front of the reader’s eyes as she copes with the tragedy and the fear of who might still be out there wanting to do her harm. She’s surrounded by loving family but, as might be expected, that’s not enough and it may be that friends like Haley and Aisha, the boys in the group like Tyrone and Kip, even a belligerent former friend like Reva, will be the ones to help her recover. They could also be harboring the killer.
There are motives aplenty but, in the end, the identity of the killer/attacker is unexpected and I have to admit I didn’t see it coming until about 3/4 of the way in. This doesn’t mean the author didn’t play fair; far from it as it all makes total sense. I’m not sure if I was just being dense or if Ms. Hainsworth really did craft a surprising reveal but, either way, she got me and I’m impressed. This is the second book I’ve read by Emily Hainsworth and it most certainly won’t be the last if she keeps writing this well.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.
The Lifeboat Clique
Katherine Tegen Books, March 2016
From the publisher—
Some people might say that Denver has a death wish. Why else would she dare to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies?
Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who is she to question this miracle of fate?
Well, that isn’t the only surprise fate has in store.
During the party a tsunami hits the coast of California, and Denver and a handful of others escape death and are swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways is none other than her ex-BFF, Abigail, who can barely stand the sight of her.
Trapped on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first—dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?
My goodness, this book is kind of a mess and, yet, I couldn’t look away. There are far too many coincidences, such as a tree that just happens to be in the right place at the wrong moment, and the whole idea of the tsunami borders on being silly BUT…somehow, it works. In particular, the tsunami provides the setting needed for this character study and the lack of plot really doesn’t matter too much. The thing I really liked is that there are only five teens on this boat floating out to sea so we really get to know each one.
Generally, the issue is that Denver has been ostracized by these other kids, led by her former BFF, Abigail, and Denver claims to not know why. In the following weeks, running out of food and water and losing hope while they drift, they have nothing to do but talk and truths begin to come to light. Perhaps most important, they all learn a great deal about each other and, in some cases, begin to care.
These five—Denver, Abigail, mean girl Sienna, blabbermouth Hayley and drummer/stoner Trevor—are interesting and they all have their own insecurities as well as unexpected strengths. I found myself wishing that they would be found before it was too late but also hoping, if they survived, that they’d remember what they learned about themselves and their boatmates.
It’s unfortunate that the story drags in places and that there is little tension even in their direst moments but I did still enjoy it. Billed as “darkly humorous” and “savagely funny”, the labeling isn’t quite right as it has its funny moments but there’s not much to laugh at once the tsunami hits. It’s a quick read and not very deep—even the worst times didn’t cause me to feel any real emotion—but I think the author’s aim, to have these teens open up to each other and show their true colors, was a good one.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.