Complicit

Complicit

4.0 4
by Stephanie Kuehn
     
 

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A YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick

Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor's fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And

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Overview

A YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Pick

Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor's fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.But today Cate got out. And now she's coming back for Jamie.Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she's kept hidden for years. A truth she's not supposed to tell. Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller Complicit from Stephanie Kuehn, the William C. Morris Award—winning author of Charm&Strange.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
★ 05/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Fifteen-year-old Jamie Henry is haunted by muddled memories of his childhood and by a tragic fire at a neighborhood horse barn. Everyone in their upscale suburban town, including Jamie, believes that the fire was started by his damaged and wild older sister, Cate, who has a reputation for drinking and stealing. But at the opening of Kuehn's intense novel, Cate returns from a juvenile detention center, and it becomes clear that the truth is far more complicated. From the first day of his sister's dramatic arrival, Jamie's life begins to spiral out of control. An excellent student and "good" boy, the teen has always considered Cate to be the troubled one. She causes heartache and worry for their well-meaning adoptive parents, and she is known for manipulating her friends. Cate is unreliable, but Jamie needs her. He needs to know what really happened the night of the fire. And he wants to learn about their young mother who died under mysterious circumstances. Following clues to an increasingly complex puzzle, the protagonist slowly begins to piece his past together. He has the support of several other characters, especially his therapist and his new girlfriend, both of whom give readers a more nuanced and sympathetic view of his struggle. Alternating between past and present, Kuehn sustains the tension through first-person narration and revealing flashbacks. Complicit ensnares readers from the first page with its surprising twists and revelations. Recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/31/2014
Jamie and Cate were adopted by the wealthy Henry family after their single mother was murdered—or maybe it was an accidental death. Younger sibling Jamie isn’t sure anymore. Jamie has worked hard to overcome his anxiety-ridden youth, and he’s doing well until Cate is released from jail after serving time for burning down a barn, killing several horses and badly burning another girl. Even more troubling, Jamie is suffering from debilitating neurological attacks that paralyze his arms and is losing track of long periods of time, all of which seems to be connected to his fears about Cate’s return. Believing there’s a secret in his past, Jamie searches for answers about his mother’s life and his turbulent childhood with Cate. Kuehn’s second novel, after her Morris Award–winning Charm & Strange, powerfully examines how mental illness can turn into family tragedy that ripples far and wide beyond a single event. The prose is as hallucinatory as the madness Jamie seeks to uncover in a novel that’s tense and ambiguous from start to finish. Ages 13–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-16
A bright, conflicted hero struggles to free himself from the past's tightening bonds in this corkscrew of a thriller.After their troubled young mother's death in an accidental shooting, Jamie and Cate were adopted by loving, affluent parents in Danville, Calif., themselves still grieving the loss of their two biological children in a car accident. The kids respond differently to their comfortably sheltered existence. Jamie becomes a high-performing student and talented pianist, while Cate, still passionately loyal to the mother Jamie barely remembers, grows into a wild, reckless teen. Released two years after her incarceration for burning down a neighbor's barn, killing horses and critically maiming a classmate, Cate's heading for Danville, and Jamie's terrified of what she'll do next. Years of treatment with a sympathetic therapist haven't helped him overcome his bouts of amnesia and, when severely stressed, the loss of sensation in his hands. With his first romance on the horizon, he's stopped taking his meds, which have deadening side effects. Vivid characterization and Jamie's sharply observed narration lend credibility to the proceedings and divert attention from a few holes in the logic. In the service of her plot, Kuehn takes liberties with current child welfare practices (some may take issue with the skewed portrait of older-child adoption), but her strong suit—building suspense—is bound to keep even skeptical readers turning pages.Smart, gripping genre fiction. (Thriller. 14-18)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466843059
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/24/2014
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
138,605
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


ONE

 

My phone is ringing.

It’s 3:29.

In the morning.

The phone keeps ringing. Or not ringing really—the Monk song I have programmed is what’s playing, and the notes, the beat, sound sort of sad, sort of mournful, against the bleak-black December night. I groan and fumble around in the sheets. I like to be prepared, so I sleep with my phone beneath my pillow just in case someone calls. No one ever does, of course.

Except for now.

More fumbling, but my fingers find the phone at last. I slide it out and hold it in front of my face. My eyes are bleary and my brain slow, but what I’m seeing on the touch screen finally registers:

Unknown caller.

Okay.

I answer.

“Hello?” I say.

Nothing. I hear nothing.

“Who is this?”

No response, but I press the phone closer to my ear. No one speaks, but I hear something. I do. Short feral bursts of noise. Organic. Like a faint sobbing.

Or laughing.

“Hey,” I say, a little louder than before. I want to make sure that I’m heard. “I know you’re there. Who’re you trying to reach?”

Still no answer, and nothing keeps happening, the way nothing sometimes does. The phone line remains open, and I remain listening. The human sounds fade. They’re replaced by a howling wind. The muffled blare of a horn.

I lay my head against my pillow and look up at the ceiling, shadowy and dark. Outside the house, rain falls softly. This is December in California. The phone beeps that its battery is low, but I don’t move. Instead I close my eyes, and on the backs of my lids, I picture places where the wind might be blowing.

The desert.

The mountains.

The ragged edge of the world.

I still don’t move.

I fall asleep with the phone against my ear.

*   *   *

“Jamie,” Angie says to me at breakfast the next morning. “We thought you should hear it from us first.”

“Hear what, Mom?” I ask. I call Angie Mom because that’s what she likes and because it’s so rarely the thought that counts. That’s dishonest on my part, I know, but if I had to pick one quality to define me, it’s this—I can’t stand to hurt other people’s feelings. Not saying what I mean is sometimes the best way I know how to be kind.

From the other side of the kitchen, Angie’s husband Malcolm straightens his silk tie and pours coffee into his stainless-steel travel mug. He only drinks the organic free trade stuff, which is expensive as hell, but, hey, Malcolm can definitely afford it. He even grinds the beans at home. Like it’s some kind of virtue.

“It’s your sister,” he says.

I stiffen. “My sister?”

“Yes.”

“What about her?”

“She’s been released.”

My hands go ice-cold the way they always do when I’m taken by surprise.

This is not a good thing.

“Are you okay?” Angie asks as my fork clatters to the hardwood floor. Maple syrup dots the front of my T-shirt and jeans on the way down.

“But I thought—”

“We thought the same thing.” Malcolm fits the lid just right onto his mug. Click. He hasn’t noticed my hands yet. They’re completely numb now and useless. I look down at my food, cut-up whole-grain waffles that I can no longer eat, and sort of jam my arms into my lap. It can take hours to get feeling back, a whole day even—some kind of nerve thing that even the big-shot doctors down at Stanford can’t figure out after years of rigorous and invasive testing. I shake my head and try to keep breathing. This is so not what I needed.

Not now.

Not when I have a full day of classes, including AP physics and digital arts.

Not when I play piano in the school jazz band and we have our winter performance tonight at the civic auditorium in downtown Danville.

Not when Jenny Lacouture and I are supposed to hang out together at lunch and I’ve been trying for weeks to get up the nerve to ask her out on a real date.

Just not … not Cate.

My throat goes dry.

Is she the one who called last night?

“She wasn’t supposed to get out until June,” I say, and I instantly regret my tone. This isn’t Angie and Malcolm’s fault. This is not what they want, either. God knows.

“Your hands,” Angie says. “I’ll call your doctor.”

“No, don’t. Please. I can do that myself.”

Her lips tighten to a line. “I’ll get your gloves, then.”

I give what I hope is a grateful nod, and as Angie hustles from the room, there’s still a spring in her step. Taking care of me is what she does best.

I turn and look back at Malcolm. His gray hair. His stoic face. That damn silk tie.

“She got out early,” he says, and I can sense he feels just as helpless as I do. “Two weeks ago. Good behavior or overcrowding or something.”

“Why didn’t someone tell us?”

“Cate’s nineteen now. No one has to tell us anything.”

“Then how’d you find out?”

Angie sweeps back in. She’s preceded by the smell of gardenias, which is the perfume she always wears and the one that always gives me a headache. She’s waving a pair of my dumb gloves around, but there’s a look that passes between her and Malcolm—one forged from wide eyes and knowing nods. It’s the one they share when they think I can’t handle things and the one that means they’re keeping secrets. I feel the urge to call them on it, to demand an answer, but I don’t want to upset them, either. Not upsetting people is sort of the modus operandi around here.

After Cate, it’s a welcome change.

“Where is she?” I ask.

“Far away,” Angie says. She picks up my left hand and forces on the first leather shearling-lined glove. My fingers bend every which way with the effort. It’s sort of sickening to watch, but I let her do it. Everyone says heat is good for circulation, only I’ve never been able to tell that it helps any.

“Far away,” I echo, as Angie straightens up and brushes hair from my eyes. It used to be blond, my hair, but now it’s aged into the same light brown as hers. Like a chameleon’s trick—familial camouflage.

“She’s got no reason to come back here, James. None. We’ve seen the last of her.”

I nod again. This is a sentiment I’d like to believe, but I don’t. There are things I know about my sister that no one else does. Bad things. Things I can’t say. Not without hurting Angie and Malcolm or causing them grief, and I don’t have it in me to do that. So instead, I lift my chin and smile warmly at my adoptive parents. This is good, reassuring. My actions send the message that I’m fine, totally fine.

I’m not fine, of course. Not even close.

But like I said, it’s so rarely the thought that counts.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Kuehn


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