The Leaving
  • Alternative view 1 of The Leaving
  • Alternative view 2 of The Leaving

The Leaving

4.4 5
by Tara Altebrando

See All Formats & Editions

Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she


Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.

This unforgettable novel--with its rich characters, high stakes, and plot twists--will leave readers breathless.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/04/2016
In a twisting, harrowing story set over a few weeks, Altebrando (My Life in Dioramas) brings readers to a small town where six kindergartners disappeared without a trace and left an entire community grieving. The story begins on the day that five of the six return, 11 years later, their memories gone. Two of the five, Lucas and Scarlett, narrate, along with Avery, the sister of the child still missing; their alternating voices begin to piece together the mystery behind the “Leaving” and try to heal wounds of anger and loss among those left behind. In order to represent the teens’ fractured memories, Altebrando toys with the formatting and layout of the text: Scarlett’s words rise and fall in places, stretch, and are broken up by scatterings of slash marks, and Lucas’s thoughts are repeatedly interrupted by fragmented images (“bloody backpack gun carousel”) set in capitalized white text in black boxes. It’s engrossing, both as a thriller and a meditation on memory—its limits, its loss, and the ways it deceives and constructs identity. Ages 13–up. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (June)
From the Publisher

"You will not sleep, check your phone or even breathe once you begin reading The Leaving. Altebrando hides a meditation on memory and identity inside a top-speed page-turner. I promise, you will not even look up from the page." - E. Lockhart, author of WE WERE LIARS

"The Leaving isn't one of those books that creeps up on you: instead, it throws you in the back of an unmarked van and speeds off before you even have time to wonder what's going on. This book gripped me on the first page, and by the last, had really moved me. It's a twisty, oh no she didn't thriller that keeps the surprises firing, but also a thoughtful meditation on memory, identity, and what really makes us who we are." - Bennett Madison, author of SEPTEMBER GIRLS

"As heart-stopping as it is heart-breaking, The Leaving layers a wildly strange suspense story over a lovely and unexpected narrative of grief, loss, and the struggle to imagine a future in the shadow of the past." - Robin Wasserman, author of GIRLS ON FIRE

"Bold, inventive, and engaging, The Leaving leaps straight off the page." - Beth Kephart, author of SMALL DAMAGES and THIS IS THE STORY OF YOU

"This is no mere thriller; folded into this compulsively readable work are thought-provoking themes. . . . Teens who enjoy engrossing, contemplative titles such as Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not will devour this insightful musing on memory and identity." - starred review, School Library Journal

"A twisting, harrowing story . . . Engrossing, both as a thriller and a meditation on memory—its limits, its loss, and the ways it deceives and constructs identity." - starred review, Publishers Weekly

"A twisting and turning mystery that will grip readers." - Kirkus Reviews

"Told in a complicated layering, Altebrando constructs an amazing story about the lives of those taken and of those who tried to carry on back home." - VOYA

"With a bit of romance, a bit of pathos, a bit of science fiction, and a bit of ripped-from-the-headlines trauma, this will appeal to fans of mystery." - BCCB

"Highly satisfying . . . A believable and clever story that will keep readers engaged from beginning to end." - Booklist

VOYA, June 2016 (Vol. 39, No. 2) - CJ Bott
Eleven years ago “the leaving” happened. The story is told in three voices, those of Scarlett and Lucas—two who were taken and returned—and Avery, not taken, but whose brother Max was taken and not returned. The book opens with the release of five of the captives now trying to understand where they were during those eleven years, where have they been dropped off, and why there was a map in each of their pockets guiding them to their homes. Told in a complicated layering, Altebrando constructs an amazing story about the lives of those taken and of those who tried to carry on back home. The entire town was haunted with the loss and took it up as their crusade. The returnees have few memories of their past experiences, though moments of those years do start to creep back. The book is expansive and yet incomplete. Important story threads are abandoned and the discovery of where the young people were kept is unrealistic. Still, the story will challenge thinking and stir conversations. Perhaps the most intriguing discussion will focus on memories. Can people exist without memories? Do people create memories or do they create people? Reviewer: CJ Bott; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
★ 06/01/2016
Gr 8 Up—One day, six kindergarteners disappear without a trace. Eleven years later, five of the kids, now teenagers, return, but the mysteries have only multiplied. Though Lucas, Scarlett, Kristen, Adam, and Sarah operate on a developmentally appropriate level (speaking, reading, and writing like typical adolescents), they have no memory of anything from the last 11 years—and no explanation of why Max, who also left, isn't with them. Were they kidnapped? Abducted by aliens? Were they victims of some psychological experiment? Readers follow Lucas and Scarlett, who suspect that they might have had a romantic relationship in the past, and Avery, Max's younger sister, who clings to the hope that her brother will return and who finds herself drawn to Lucas, as the teens try to piece together just what happened and why. Depicting characters with few memories, Altebrando has effectively established an often eerie and unsettling mood, and the creative use of typography adds to the feeling of disorientation. The prose has a sense of urgency, and brief chapters will keep teens turning the pages. However, this is no mere thriller; folded into this compulsively readable work are thought-provoking themes. What is the link between identity and memory? Are we better off without painful remembrances? As the book concludes, characters—and readers—will still be contemplating these challenging questions. VERDICT Teens who enjoy engrossing, contemplative titles such as Adam Silvera's More Happy Than Not will devour this insightful musing on memory and identity.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Five teens who were part of a group of six that vanished as kindergartners reappear as mysteriously as they went missing in this thriller. Scarlett, Lucas, Sarah, Adam, and Kristen are dropped off in a park, each with a map to their respective homes tucked into their pockets. None of them has any memory of how they got there, who was driving the van that dropped them off, nor where they've been for the past 11 years. The agony experienced by their families has taken its toll, and the homes they return to are troubled places. This is only further complicated by the fact that Max, the sixth boy who disappeared with them, has not returned, and none of them has any memory of who he is. This multilayered story is told from the perspectives of Scarlett, Lucas, and Max's younger sister, Avery, all of whom come from white families, though of varying economic backgrounds. Their voices are distinct from one another, with Scarlett's narrative employing the most unconventional structure: sentences curve into various shapes on the page, and typed slashes evocatively illustrate how her mind reels. The eventual reveal is intricate and a long time coming, but it will satisfy. A twisting and turning mystery that will grip readers even if it is at times a bit difficult to follow. (Thriller. 14-18)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Tara Altebrando is the author of several middle grade and teen novels, including Roomies, an ALA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, co-written with Sara Zarr. She lives in New York City with her family.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Leaving 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book is super good.I only read the sample but it puts you on an edge.You dont know which five will come home.You will not want to put this book down,you will not be able to get a grip.Put your phone down or whatever electronic device you have in your hands cause you will be page turning all day long.
Laura_at_125Pages 11 months ago
I was unsure what to expect with The Leaving by Tara Altebrando. The hype for it was everywhere and I was intrigued by the unique plot. Six kidnapped kindergartners, eleven years pass and five kids return with no memories of the time away; sounds interesting right? And it was. Told in alternating voices, some like Avery whose brother Max was taken and some taken like Scarlett who can’t figure out why her home doesn’t feel like home anymore. One of the key story lines is of Avery, whose brother is the only one of the six to not return yet. Her story weaves throughout the others and provides a strong voice that helps balance out some of the intended confusion. I also liked how strong Scarlett and Lucas were, they provided a nice contrast and I enjoyed seeing them reach the conclusion. This definitely did not seem like a book over 400 pages as it was so fast paced. I did not love the big twist ending, as I felt that it did not quite fit the intrigue of the rest of the book. It seemed like it was wrapped up very quickly and I wanted a little more tension. Other than that thought, this was a very engaging read and I loved how unique the plot really was. Original Review @ I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
tpolen 11 months ago
With a hook like that, how can you not want to read this book? I had to know what happened to these kids whether it be alien abduction, black hole, spontaneous combustion - I needed to know. The Leaving alternates between three POVs - two of the returned kids and the sister of the one who didn't. The bits and pieces that remain of the kids' memories are revealed along the way, but no matter what kind of theories I created, I couldn't have predicted the ending. This book points out how fascinating the mind is, how memories can be altered, retained, lost, etc., and how even though the conscious mind may not remember something, the memory might still be lurking in the subconscious. Despite being completely engrossed in the storyline, I had a little trouble buying into one of the relationships in this book - I won't say between which two characters - because I find it difficult to believe anyone could form such a strong bond at a very young age. It just didn't ring true for me. The Leaving is a gripping, dare-someone-to-pry-it-from-your-fingers, YA novel that would also appeal to adults. Highly recommended. I received a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
MissPrint 11 months ago
Eleven years ago six kindergartners were taken from their school and disappeared without a trace. There have been movies and conspiracy theories but nothing close to the truth; no kind of resolution for the parents and siblings left behind. Until now. When five of the missing children come back they sixteen-years-old and healthy. They have no memory of what happened or where they've been held. They barely remember the lives they're returning to. None of them remember the sixth victim, Max. Scarlett returns to a mother she hardly knows and a life that doesn't quite fit while Lucas finds a family that has moved on without him and threatens to shatter with his return. Avery remembers both Scarlett and Lucas as well as she remembers the day Max never came home. Now, eleven years later, she waits again for a brother who doesn't return. Everyone wants to know what happened. Scarlett, Lucas, and the others are desperate to fill in the gaps in their memories while Avery is grasping for some trace of her still-missing brother. All five of the returned children begin to find strange clues that seem to be leading them somewhere. But only Lucas and Scarlett--with Avery's prodding--are willing to follow the clues wherever they may lead in The Leaving (2016) by Tara Altebrando. Altebrando juggles three narrators and numerous plot lines over the course of this novel. The story alternates first person narrated chapters between Scarlett (whose narration includes unconventional formatting and patterned text), Lucas (whose barely-there memories surface as blocky black text), and Avery (who has the most conventional narration). All three of the narrators are white but from a variety of economic backgrounds which adds another dimension to their connected stories. There is something inherently cruel about this premise which Altebrando explores with frightening detail. The prose here is sparse leaving details to the imagination that make the experiences of the kidnapped children all the more horrifying to imagine. There are no easy answers here and no clean resolution--something that gives The Leaving a lasting impact. The Leaving is, ostensibly, a thriller. The novel is packed with suspense and razor-sharp tension in short chapters that build to a chilling conclusion. At the same time, this story is also a thoughtful character study. Who are we without our memories? Who can we become? Is a blank slate of a childhood that different from the gradual forgetting that comes as we grow older? Are the monsters we fear any less frightening if we don't remember them? The Leaving is an ambitious work of suspense that is atmospheric, eerie, and incredibly successful. A must read. Possible Pairings: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, False Memory by Dan Krokos, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten *An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*
book_junkee 11 months ago
This synopsis of this sounded like something I would absolutely enjoy, so I was eager to start reading it. I did get sucked in right away. The idea was intriguing and the way the story was broken up between the characters kept me quickly turning the pages. I loved the misdirection and how I felt like every time I might have something figured out, everything shattered. It was a bit long...granted there's a lot of story to tell and it did need to be told. Some scenes did seem a bit repetitive. I am purposely leaving this review vague because anything I want to say could be spoilery. Overall, it was a captivating idea and a book I know I'll read again. **Huge thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**