Chris Creed was the class freak -- his high school's prime outsider. And when he mysteriously disappears, the town of Steepleton is buzzing with rumors: Has he been murdered or kidnapped? Committed suicide? Perhaps, he has simply run away. The only clue is a cryptic email message left by Christopher 24 hours before he turns up missing. In it, Chris explains how envious he is of his classmate, golden-boy Torey Adams, and several of Torey's friends, who "get everything -- athletic ability, good personalities, beautiful girlfriends." Chris closes by stating that he simply wants to "be gone."
As the police and the Creed family search for answers, so too does Torey, who is haunted by Chris's disappearance. And as he digs deeper, and becomes aware of the lies, the pain, and peoples' need to blame others when tragedy strikes, he is forever changed. Chris's sheltered, privileged life threatens to crumble, as he gets to know some of the kids in town who have been labeled misfits and finds out that people are not always what they appear to be. This fast-paced, compelling, and suspenseful novel is a powerful coming-of-age story, and an eye-opening account of how preconceived notions can lead people to relate to each other in a negative and unjustifiable manner.
Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books
...a complex, credible look at alienation, compassion, loyalty, and cruelty among young and other adults.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First-novelist Plum-Ucci wraps a well-crafted mystery around a topical issue: the effect teenage intolerance can have on misfits. When class freak Chris Creed suddenly disappears, his fellow students are not so much worried but abuzz with speculation: Is he a runaway, a suicide, a crime victim? Through a complicated but believable turn of events, narrator Torey Adams, a popular 16-year-old, starts to feel some concern and resolves to find the truth. His unlikely allies are two kids of dubious social status: Ali, who is Chris's neighbor, and Ali's boyfriend, Bo, a "boon" (shorthand for boondocks) with a juvenile record. Convinced Chris's mother is to blame for Chris's disappearance, they plan to break into his house to steal his hidden diary in hopes of finding evidence. The plan backfires: Bo is caught, Torey is implicated and all three are the subject of malicious gossip that proves to have dangerous consequences. Told as a flashback, the novel drags slightly at the beginning. Plum-Ucci, however, picks up the pace and builds to a fever pitch near the conclusion, vividly describing Torey's late-night hunt for Chris's body in a nearby Indian burial ground. Readers will likely be enthralled by the mystery, and, even more, they will be moved by Torey's hard-won realization that everyone deserves compassion. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Sixteen-year-old Torey Adams's normal, rational life in small town South Jersey is turned upside down by the disappearance of Chris Creed, his high school's prime outsider. Looking back in a narrative written a year later from the boarding school he's escaped to, Torey relentlessly draws the reader into the teenage world of haves and have-nots, the blessed and the clueless. As a portrait of the missing Creed evolves, insider Torey finds himself inexplicably drawn deeper into the lives of other outsiders, like the misunderstood thief and "boonie" Bo, and the "turbo slut" Ali. This is a journey of understanding in the tradition of Cormier and the early Zindel, as well as a taut mystery-thriller. Journalist and first-time novelist Plum-Ucci writes hard and well. 2000, Harcourt, Ages 12 up, $17.00. Reviewer: Kathleen KarrChildren's Literature
VOYA - Voya Reviews
Christopher Creed could be a royal pain to his classmates. Nevertheless, when he disappears, everyone worries about what has happened to him. Has he become the victim of a murder or abduction? Is suicide a possibility? Perhaps, think some, Christopher has simply run away. The police and the Creed family search for answers. So does sixteen-year-old classmate Torey Adams. It seems as though everyone has a story about pounding Christopher for his annoying behavior; even Torey admits to slugging him once. As the mystery deepens, however, and people begin to blame various people in the small town of Steepleton, Torey begins to realize that there are many secrets in the town. Perhaps the disappearance of Christopher Creed is a mystery not meant to be solved. Despite the fact that Christopher Creed is a character never really "seen" in the novel, readers will come to know him and to care about him through the author's deft characterization. How other characters think and feel about Christopher, as well as how they react to the news of his mysterious disappearance, are as revealing as any description of him might be. The reactions of the student body, many of whom loathed Christopher, are realistic. Conversations sound as if they were recorded in any high school hallway. The open-ended conclusion will have readers talking and discussing long after reading. The book would be a great way to inspire debate about how preconceived notions can color the manner in which people relate to each other, and it will help teens challenge prejudices that they often are unaware exist. There is a great deal of depth to be plumbed in this novel. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only byoccasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Harcourt, Ages 13 to 18, 256p, $17. Reviewer: Teri Lesesne
Chris Creed, a high school junior and all-around "town weirdo," envies the popular kids in school like Torey Adams: "I don't understand why I get nothing and these boys get everythingathletic ability, good personalities, beautiful girlfriends," he writes in an enigmatic e-mail to the high school principal. He goes on to say, "I wish no malice on anyone. I only wish to be gone." And indeed, he vanishes. His parents are distraught, and the school community is in turmoil. No one liked Chris particularly, but no one wanted him dead or goneor did they? Sixteen-year-old Torey's previously "perfect" life is turned upside down in the wake of Chris's disappearance, as he starts to formulate questions about the people around him, begins to fight peer pressure, and learns to appreciate previously unseen qualities in some of the kids from the other side of the tracks. Torey even starts to doubt his own sanity when he has a vision and stumbles across a dead body. The secrets of a small town slowly emerge in this suspenseful and well-told coming-of-age story, as Torey comes to understand something of the complexities of life. The mystery of Chris's disappearance and the intriguing characters here will pull readers in; this is a gripping tale, with realistic, sometimes profane dialogue. An exceptionally strong first novel, by an author worth watching. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Harcourt, 248p, 99-44212, $17.00. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Torey Adams, 16, is on the football team, is friends with all of the brightest and best in his class, and has a beautiful girlfriend. Suddenly, a class geek disappears, leaving a cryptic e-mail message for the principal that mentions Torey and some of his friends. As the novel progresses, the teen must face his fear that Chris is dead and is in the Indian burial ground behind his house. As he searches for his classmate, the town begins to suspect that he had something to do with Chris's possible murder. Although the boy is never found, dead or alive, Torey is changed forever. He begins to bond with some of the kids in town who have been labeled misfits and finds out that people are not always what they appear to be. A high school bully has a caring streak, the seemingly perfect Chief of Police has been cheating on his wife, and a childhood friend with a reputation for sleeping around turns out to be a trustworthy companion. Torey's narration takes place a year after Chris's disappearance, during which time he posted his version of the events on the Internet in hopes of finding the missing teen. The story offers mystery, a psychic, an Indian ghost, and an interesting perspective on how cruel people can be to one another. Plum-Ucci knows her audience and provides her readers with enough twists, turns, and suspense to keep them absorbed.-Kim Harris, Newman Riga Library, Churchville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Plum-Ucci makes a memorable fiction debut with this soapy tale of a teenager's disappearance from a small New Jersey town asimmer with dirty secrets. Rumors fly when despised, perennial outcast Chris Creed vanishes, leaving an ambiguous e-mail note behind. Did he run? Commit suicide? Was he kidnapped? Murdered? Suspicion quickly centers on 17-year-old Bo Richardson, a hard case with a long juvenile recordbut as Bo's naïve schoolmate Alex discovers, finger-pointing is not evidence. Revelations unfold as Alex begins to look past his comfortable life and circle of superficial friends: the adults in town are still flinching over a similar disappearance a generation ago; the seemingly distraught Mrs. Creed is a control freak of the most damaging kind; a schoolmate psychologically abused by her mother's current boyfriend reveals that the local police chief is one of her mother's former ones. Most startling of all, to Alex at least, beneath Bo's brutal exterior lies a fundamental decency. Alex's insights into the fears and secrets of people around him, and the way ugly truths can be hidden by easy lies, are hard-won enough to be convincing, and the plot peaks with a gloriously icky scene in which Alex breaks his leg while breaking into an old, naturally sealed Lenape tomb, and watches a more recent corpse spontaneously decompose upon exposure to fresh oxygen. Unlike such similarly harrowing stories as Michael Cadnum's Zero at the Bone (1996) and Jean Thesman's Calling the Swan (see below), this leaves readers with hints that the missing person is still alive somewherebut readers will understand why, if so, he's not coming out of hiding any timesoon.(Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
[set star] “Plum-Ucci knows her audience and provides her readers with enough twists, turns, and suspense to keep them absorbed.”—School Library Journal (starred)
“A complex, credible look at alienation, compassion, loyalty, and cruelty.”—The Bulletin