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.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My phone is ringing.
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:
“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.
“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 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?”
“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 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
Table of Contents
II. Straight, No Chaser,
III. Played Twice,
Also by Stephanie Kuehn,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.75 stars* This is my first Stephanie Kuehn book, and it definitely won’t be my last. It’s a quick read, but by no means is it “light”. COMPLICIT reminds me a lot of Emiko Jean’s WE’LL NEVER BE APART. Execution-wise, however, I think Emiko’s book was slightly better, for two reasons: One, by the time I reached the end of COMPLICIT, not only did I already know what *really* happened (sadly, not the norm for me—I tend to get all wrapped up in a story, and don’t think to look very much ahead); and two, the reader’s perception of one of the main characters, in my opinion, was purposefully too vague. (Obviously, in any thriller there’s got to be varying degrees of vague, but to me, this vagueness was almost like a... betrayal. Like, okay, I get it, there needs to be an element of surprise, but... I’d say more, but *spoilers*.) If you like psychological thrillers and the dynamics of sibling relationships, this’ll likely be right up your alley. (Or if you are new to the psychological thriller genre, and are wanting to try it out, this would be a great place to start. As well as any other book on my What Just Happened shelf.) *I’d say this is for the upper YA crowd due to drug use (there’s also occasional profanity, FYI)
A true page turner, Complicit is one of those books that I simply could not put down. When Jamie Henry finds out that his sister had been released from juvenile detention, his hands go numb and he changes from a dedicated student to a person who is suddenly driven by an urgency to find out the truth about his past and his birth mother. When his sister, Cate, starts to drop hints and pointers during phone conversations, his need to know becomes an obsession. This is the kind of review where it is better to say as little as possible in order to avoid giving spoilers. For me, the three things that truly make this book outstanding, are the characters, the dark atmosphere created by the prose, and the highly disturbing and wonderfully twisted end. The author truly gets into her main character's mind. Nervous, easily distracted by negative things, insecure and often very confused, Jamie is a complicated person and, clearly, mentally unstable. His sister, Cate, comes across as manipulative, spiteful and mostly insane, yet, we are told that she used to be a clever, outgoing and kind person. The third important character, Jenny, Jamie's girlfriend, is such a cleverly flawed person that it made me ask serious questions about Jamie's ability to make healthy choices. Often dark and depressing, this book gives the reader a look into the confusion of two thoroughly troubled minds. The negative reaction of the community towards the brother of an arsonist augments the morose atmosphere of the book. If psychological thrillers and surprising endings are your thing, I recommend Complicit as an absolute must read. (Ellen Fritz)
I bought this book a while back after reading some pretty great reviews on it. I had heard it was a "scary" book, and that made it even more intriguing to me. I just want to reiterate before I go on, not all books are for all people. I really had a hard time getting into this book. I don't usually trudge through books...I mean I really don't, BUT I had heard so many great things about this book, I kept reading to see what all the hype was about. I am sad to say it took till almost the middle of the book when I was finally like, "Oh, here it goes". Jamie and Cate's story was messed up. I don't know how else to put it other than "messed up". Damaged maybe? Cate seems to be a vengeful girl taking advantage of other and having a fiery temper. Jamie, seems kind of normal at the beginning other than his hands going dead all the time. Something to do with trauma. When the story unravels I understand why Jamie is the way he is, but I DID NOT see the ending coming. That was a great surprise. I wish I would have LOVED this one but I didn't. The ending was FANTASTIC...but I still never connected with any of the characters. The writing was beautiful, and interesting to read. I can see where the author was going with this, but unfortunately I didn't connect until the end....and then it was over. It's an interesting psychological mind trip, I can tell you that. I liked it well enough to finish, so that is a good thing. I loved the end of the book. I loved the writing. I just didn't love that I personally couldn't connect with the book.
Wow, this book was not what I expected or wanted it to be. I got this bad vibe about Jamie the minute I started to read about him. I don’t know what it was; I just didn’t trust the guy. When he gets word that his sister Cate is getting released, he becomes anxious and intense. Her two years in the detention center went by quickly and why no one told him she was getting released, has him stressed. His cataplexy starts to kick in and he starts to lose control again. Flashbacks to what happened two years ago filtered throughout the book and kept me up-to-date with what is flooding through Jamie’s mind as he tries to handle his life now that his world is turning on its axis. Phone calls from his sister inform him that she’s coming and that puts him on edge. As I am reeled back in time, I was captivated more with the life of the teens back in the day then what is happening now. I wished I could read more about the life they led then, as Cate seems to have some twisted power that she unleashes on her peers that they succumb to. She is powerful, above all of them and they are her lackeys. Its Jamie’s medical condition that makes him stand out as I read about him, it’s his trance-like symptoms that make him seems so mysterious and put me on edge. As Cate makes her appearance, Jamie and Cate confront their past and their future, as something’s never change. There really wasn’t any intensity, nor was there any fire that kept me going me though his book and I thought the first half of the book was rather mundane. Had there been another issue to contend with or other relationships in the book, it might have held my attention more, but again that is my own opinion.
This is a book that has you guessing from the beginning, trying to figure out what is happening. And I am sucker for the mind-f*ck kinda reads and before I knew it, I was at the end. Loooved it. Jamie and his sister were witness to their mothers death, after they were placed in the system. Both ended up being placed in a home together and were adopted. They both are troubled, Jamie with his issues and Cate with her wildness. When Cate ends up going to juvenile detention, things start to get a little better for Jamie. He goes to school, has friends, and act like a typical teenage boy even liking a girl named Jenny. Now that Cate is out of juvie, everything turns into a big mess for him. Jamie is a character you can’t figure out. He is the type of character that I find intriguing. I know he has been through so much and was so broken, physically, emotionally and mentally. His struggles were ever present, and he had to deal with some serious issues and I felt for him. But at the same time, I wondered if I could really trust his version of everything. Is he really who I think he is? What can I say, I like the unreliable type characters. Cate was a hot mess of a character. No matter what, I don’t think anyone is going to tame her wildness anytime soon. But one thing was clear with her, she cared about her brother, maybe a little possessive. Jaime narrations takes us on this fast paced thriller that keeps you guessing till the end. We get glimpses of the past mixed with the present, showing that Jamie doesn’t really know what happened in his past. But we get to piece it all together right along with him. His sister Cate, seems to have some kinda of a hold on Jamie, and it frustrating not only for him but for the reader. Why did she come back to the town that doesn’t like her? What does she want from Jamie? The pieces start to fall into place and then I was changing my mind back and forth about the whole idea I had at the beginning of what was really going on. Was Cate crazy, or was Jamie crazy, or maybe I even the crazy one for trying to figure it all out. It was all thrilling and creepy. The big reveal answered it all for me, and I was happy with the way this ended. And just what I want from these types of books. If I could give any advice in reading this, don’t read the blurb, go in not know what to expect and you will have one twisty, intense and somewhat disturbing ride to Jamie’s truth. Complicit is another freaking awesome book from Kuehn, and I would say pick this up for sure.
The synopsis of Complicit drew me in from the get go, and I knew I had to read this novel. With a premise like this one, you just know it’s got to be good, and it was. Very good, especially with its ending that completely knocked me on my butt. I mean, WOW. According to her confession and the evidence her brother Jamie found in the woods, Cate Henry set alight a horse barn with the horses still inside in hopes of drawing out their riders and doing as much damage to both them and the horses as possible. Sent to juvie for two years, the novel begins as Jamie learns that his sister, Cate, has been set free, sending him spiraling down as she taunts him with statements about their deceased mother and the fact that Cate’s now coming for Jamie. Determined to find the truth at any cost, Jamie begins to stir up the past, including that surrounding his mother’s murder when he was a young child; an event that not only left him emotionally scarred, but also suffering from blackouts and seemingly sporadic loss of his hands mobility. Unable to remember the events of his past, or even his mother’s features, though certain that they hold the key to Cate’s odd, cultish behavior, Jamie sets off on a journey of self-discovery, and what he finds is beyond alarming. Told through both past and present revelations, readers begin to put together the puzzling pieces of Jamie and Cate’s existence, understanding that not everything is as it seems, and that the cost of protecting the fragile mind of the young can indeed turn deadly. I highly enjoyed this novel, especially with this ending that left me mystified and chilled to my core. While I was able to pinpoint the truth behind Cate’s actions fairly early on, the events that readers are left with at the very end were still shocking and, in a way, more appalling than that of the horse barn burning in the first place. Jamie’s attempts to placate his sister while maintaining the semblance of his life, including his very first crush, sends readers on an intense psychological ride as Cate gets ever closed to Jamie, and as everything comes to a head, it’s beyond mind blowing. If you’re looking for something completely different, I suggest picking up Complicit—be prepared for a chilling conclusion.
Complicit By Stephanie Kuehn St. Martin’s Griffin, NY Kindle edition “Complicit,” a mind-bending YA novel, is one of the best I’ve read this summer. Stephanie Kuehn progressively unfolds an edgy coming-of-age tale to intrigue the reader right up to the last page. Adoptive parents, Angie and Malcolm, have done all they could to provide for and bring healing to Jamie and his sister, Cate. With so many deep, dark secrets, psychological trauma, and defense mechanisms, present in parents and children, is that enough? Reacting to trauma triggers, Jamie mercifully and periodically loses memory and control of his hands. Hearing that Cate is being released from a detention facility after only 2 short years is just such a trigger. Her threatening phone calls propel the story as Jamie’s life frantically spins out of control. Mystery unravels in perfect timing to heighten suspense. This quick-read page-turner will certainly find its place at the top of many YA lists. I received this Kindle formatted ARC from St. Martin’s Griffin Press through Net Galley, in exchange for my honest review.