Evil Encounter: A Compelling Timely Novel about a Charismatic Leader's Hypnotic Power

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Almost immediately, Michelle was entranced by Luke, the handsome, charismatic leader of her therapy group. But on a weekend retreat, everything Michelle felt or thought abut Luke is shattered, and now she must uncover the truth about him--and herself--or she'll lose all that she's gained.

Michelle begins attending group sessions to help her deal with her parents' divorce, but her increasingly intense involvement with the group's charismatic leader leads to even ...

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Overview

Almost immediately, Michelle was entranced by Luke, the handsome, charismatic leader of her therapy group. But on a weekend retreat, everything Michelle felt or thought abut Luke is shattered, and now she must uncover the truth about him--and herself--or she'll lose all that she's gained.

Michelle begins attending group sessions to help her deal with her parents' divorce, but her increasingly intense involvement with the group's charismatic leader leads to even bigger problems for both her and her mother.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's hard to believe that this overstuffed mystery was written by the gifted author of Journey to America and Escape from Egypt. Following her parents' divorce, Michelle has moved with her mother to California, and a teacher at her new school notices that Michelle is having trouble adjusting. Before long Michelle joins a therapy group lead by a maverick counselor named Luke, whose charisma almostbut not quiteblinds Michelle to his dubious ethics. A weekend workshop with the group at a remote estate moves from therapy to sex and drugsand to Luke's murder. Soon after, Michelle's mother is arrested for the crime; Michelle, working pretty much on her own, uncovers the real culprits. Along the way Michelle copes with her father's infidelities, a growing intimacy with a sympathetic classmate and what may or may not be an eating disorder of her own. Levitin virtually frog-marches Michelle through this busy story, letting brief descriptions of Michelle's wardrobe take the place of the fluid, perceptive characterizations that typically grace her writing. Almost none of the many subplots are developed credibly, much less fully, and the main story line switches direction so frequently that readers are likely to lose patience. Ages 12-up. (June)
VOYA - Ruth Dishnow Cox
Levitin deftly explores the damage group therapy can inflict when led by an unethical counselor. The main character, Michelle, cannot accept her parents' abrupt separation. After the junior English teacher refers Michelle to the school counselor, her mother, Sandra, takes her reticent daughter to a highly recommended group therapist. Luke is handsome and charismatic, and Michelle falls prey to his spell, as does her mother. The charlatan pits mother against daughter, manipulating their inner fears to heighten the tension between them. The weekend of the big group outing arrives, but Sandra has an unexpected appointment with a client. Reluctantly, Michelle goes alone. Luke lavishes all his attention on Michelle, much to the dismay of Morning, a young woman in the group. That evening Luke pulls out peyote buttons. Michelle hates drugs; when he suggests it will expand her mind, she tries to leave. Luke chases her and makes sexual advances, but is disgusted when she becomes dizzy and vomits. Taking the van, Michelle returns to the group house and passes out on the bed. The next morning she awakens to find her mother there, very upset about what she witnessed when she unexpectedly arrived the night before. Returning the van to the campsite, they find the group standing around Luke's body. Sandra is charged with his murder. Her mother in jail, Michelle is determined to find the real killer. With the help of a female detective, her friend Ray, and books on detective work, Michelle figures out that Morning added drugs to Luke's coffee, the same coffee that had made her dizzy. Morning then pushed him into the hot tub to make it look as if he had a heart attack. Levitin's finely-woven tale concludes with Michelle and Sandra ready to begin new lives in California. This highly entertaining murder mystery has a contemporary plot and a mother-daughter conflict to which young adult readers can relate. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Michelle, a high-school junior, blames her mother for her parents' divorce and hates southern California because it is so far from the father she has always adored, but who never seems to be available anymore. When her school suggests professional counseling, Michelle's mother signs her up for group sessions. The young woman becomes intrigued with Luke, the charismatic therapist. While attending his special seminar in an isolated Palm Springs villa, she is terrified when he encourages her to take peyote and when he makes advances toward her. Later, when Luke is revealed to be a fraud, and her mother is accused of being both his lover and his murderer, Michelle realizes she is the only one who can solve the crime. From perky J. Peterman catalog fans to burned-out, aging flower children, Levitin knows California cool. She understands how adults with unresolved issues can lose themselves in pursuit of career and libido only to be mystified when they find they have lost their children, too, in some indefinable way. The portrayal of a pop-therapy group dominated by a gifted con artist is riveting. Luke is very believable as he wins confidences, probes pain, and uses vulnerability to maintain his grip. Smooth dialogue and a tension-filled plot will make readers eager to finish the story. Although more sophisticated YAs may challenge the denouement, and the drug scenes don't ring completely true, most will find it satisfying. An exciting story, sure to promote much-needed discussion about psychological practice and ethics.-Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Ilene Cooper
Floundering after her parents' divorce and a subsequent move to California, 16-year-old Michelle Morrow joins a New Age-ish therapy group led by the charismatic Luke. Luke has also drawn her mother into his magic circle, and when Luke is murdered, Mrs. Morrow is arrested, and it's up to Michelle to find the real killer. This is the bare bones of the story, and if Levitin had just added some flesh, it might have worked better. Instead, there is so much going on here the strongest story line gets buried in the bloat. Mentioned, but never really developed, are subplots about infidelity, eating disorders, father-daughter relationships, mental retardation, and first romance. One story line, concerning a relationship Michelle has with a druggie, takes place entirely offstage and never really fits in. What keeps readers turning pages is the strong character of Michelle and her push-pull liaison with Luke, whose magnetism won't be lost on the audience. Exploring that relationship should have been enough for any book.
Kirkus Reviews
After her parents' divorce, Michelle and her mother, Sandra, move from Philadelphia to the Los Angeles area. Michelle is miserable, blaming her mother for the divorce without confronting her about it, hating her new school, and watching her grades drop. Sandra signs Michelle up for group encounter sessions run by the handsome, charming, fortyish Luke. Immediately Michelle begins to heal, believing that Luke understands her, that he sees into her soul and accepts her even as he begins to uncover her weaknesses. She also feels herself falling in love with him, but rejects his advances during an encounter weekend at a desert spa. When Luke is murdered and Sandra is arrested as the killer, Michelle calls on her new resources to solve the crime.

Levitin (Adam's War, 1994, etc.) starts out with a good premise that begins to unravel when Luke enters the scene. His pycho-babble won't get far with mystery fans, who also have to tolerate manipulative character development, sloppy melodrama, and preposterous plot twists. There are minor missteps that will drive careful readers crazy, e.g., Michelle's hair gets frizzy in the "dry desert air." It all requires more suspension of disbelief than most of Levitin's fans will be willing to muster.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689802164
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 6/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.96 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2002

    Awesome Book~No Regrets

    This is a page turner. You never expect the twists and suprises you will find. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

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