Leave No Trace: A Novel

Leave No Trace: A Novel

by Mindy Mejia

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501177385
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 10,690
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Mindy Mejia received her MFA from Hamline University. Her debut novel, The Dragon Keeper, was published by Ashland Creek Press in 2012. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and two children. She is the author of Everything You Want Me to Be and Leave No Trace.

Read an Excerpt

Leave No Trace

  • BY THE TIME the boy in ward four attacked me, I’d already nicknamed him The Lost One in my head. He’d been admitted a week ago, transferred from police to orderlies while dozens of reporters swarmed the entrance, overwhelming security in their struggle to get a clear shot of our newest, involuntary patient. Inside, he’d put up such a fight that three men had to hold him down while they administered sedatives and brought him straight into isolation. The boy who came back from the dead, the newscasters called him. The picture they flashed, the only one they’d gotten before he’d become a violent blur, showed a sunburned, lean face and dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. His eyes were a ghostly blue, the kind of eyes songs get written about.

    Ward four wasn’t on my rotation so I didn’t see him after that, but I heard about him everywhere. Cashiers at the gas station chewed on their theories. Newspaper editorialists speculated on worst case scenarios, calling him a savage and a murderer. The fascination bled into the Internet, where social media accounts popped up overnight. A fake Twitter handle had already gotten ten thousand followers, someone on Snapchat made him a Bitmoji avatar, and countless people on Facebook filled his timeline with unanswered questions. The entire city of Duluth was obsessed with him; I could practically feel thousands of eyes gazing up the hill toward Congdon Psychiatric Facility, trying to peer inside these old, brick walls.

    A few days after his admission Dr. Mehta called me into her office. I was the assistant speech therapist on staff, my shiny, new title after earning my graduate degree from the University of Minnesota and getting promoted from orderly. It still hadn’t sunk in, even five months later. Every time I put a note on a patient’s record, my signature line popped up, startling me, like I was impersonating someone whose comments mattered. Me, Maya Stark, the recalcitrant kid who was suspended from high school, a professional therapist? I looked like I belonged on the opposite side of the couch. I was the maroon-haired punk girl who ran her German shepherd along the lake walk, making all the tourists snatch their kids out of harm’s way. Yet here I was. Twenty-three years old and called in by the head psychiatrist to work with the most famous patient we’d ever had.

    “I can’t tell if he understands us or not,” Dr. Mehta said, pacing behind her desk in a swirl of sari fabric. For a shrink, she rarely sat down. She also lint-rolled herself a lot because her wife fostered cats, like an illegal amount of them. “Understands the diction, that is. He knows perfectly well we’re trying to communicate with him and he wants nothing to do with us.”

    Dr. Mehta was young, at least for being the senior psychiatrist in charge of an entire mental health facility. She’d made a name for herself authoring papers and conducting studies on the harmful effects of physical restraints and isolation on patients. The key to recovery, she proposed, was enabling the patient’s sense of autonomy within a group dynamic. Treating them like humans. Imagine that.

    “Are flashcards okay?” I figured I’d start slow.

    Dr. Mehta nodded and sighed, pausing to stare at the blanks in the record on her computer. “We’re looking for any response at this point. Anything at all.”

    I waited until after the dinner rounds were finished, when stomachs were full and the wind murmured invitations against the dark windows. This was the loneliest time of day, when you let yourself wish there was someone to talk to.

    A veteran orderly named Stan admitted me into the locked outer doors of ward four and walked me down the linoleum hallway lined with isolation rooms on either side. A few patients stared at us through the windows. One was banging his fist dully on the glass, but the rest sat on their beds or paced. I counted eight in total, eight patients who weighed more than they knew. All of them pressed on Dr. Mehta’s conscience until she could get them safely reintegrated into the common wards.

    “I don’t think you’re gonna have any luck with him,” Stan said, keys jingling at his hip. “He’s completely ignored everyone who’s gone in there except Carol.”

    Carol Kelley was the seventy-year-old kitchen attendant who brought meals to all the isolation patients. She clipped herbs from her own garden to garnish the mush and served it like she was having Sunday dinner with friends around her kitchen table. Everybody loved Carol, even the sociopaths.

    “What does he do?”

    “Examines things—his clothes, the mattress. Feels the walls. Likes to drag the bed over to the window so he can see out. Stands there pressing the glass. Sometimes it looks like he’s trying to break the whole damn thing.”

    “Does he eat?”


    “Any response to his name?”

    “Huh. Like a wall, that one. You could call him Tarzan and he wouldn’t care.”

    Lucas was his name. Lucas Blackthorn. He’d been arrested for breaking and entering at an outfitter’s store, attempted robbery of the store, and two counts of aggravated assault on the owners who’d caught him in the act.

    Stan paused outside the room. “I’ll be right here at the window.”

    “I can take care of myself.”

    “That’s why I’m standing outside the door, and not between you and Tarzan.”

    Some of the orderlies resented my promotion, my leap from a blue-collar hourly wage into the hallowed ranks of the salaried, but not Stan. He gave me a grin, unlocked the door with a metal creak, and waved me inside. I stepped in and waited for it to shut behind me before looking up.

    The patient faced the back of the room with his hands on the cement block wall in a push-up position. From the way he stood with his shoulders tensed and legs braced it looked like he was trying to move the entire wall. I took a step closer and noticed his hospital shirt was torn at the bottom and he’d used the missing strip to tie his hair back.

    “Hello, Lucas.”

    He remained still for a second, but then surprised me by turning his head. I saw his face in person for the first time.

    He wasn’t a boy.

    My brain stuttered on that one thought for what felt like a stupidly long time as our eyes met and held. Why did all the media keep calling him a boy? Lucas Blackthorn looked at least as old as me and stood a foot taller. His cheeks were hollow and shaded with the beginning of a beard. His skin was a deep reddish tan, not the pasty white of most of our long-term patients, and his eyes conveyed things that no first session speech therapy could have drawn out: intelligence and caution mixed with undisguised curiosity.

    Moving slowly and deliberately, I walked to the bare mattress between us. There was no table, so we’d have to start the flashcards on the bed. He watched my progress, studying my hair. The short, pixie-cut combined with its dyed color grabbed a lot of patients’ attention. One of the men in ward two, a lifer named Big George with a traumatic brain injury, even liked to touch the ends of it that swished in front of my ears. I made sure he stuck to the left side so he didn’t get distracted by the tiny silver hoop earrings along my right ear. Lucas noticed those, too. I watched him catalog every part of me, absorbing the appearance of this outsider to his room, like someone would analyze a newly discovered insect. His gaze paused on the blue fabric bag I carried, his expression unreadable now.

    I put a hand on my chest and waited until his attention snapped back to my face.

    “I’m Maya.” Three syllables. Slow rate, distinct pronunciation. I didn’t smile. I’d never trusted strangers who smiled at me—they always wanted something.

    Patting the place where my pulse beat too fast, I nodded and said it again. “Maya.”

    He swiveled back toward the wall, dismissing the insect. I glanced behind me where Stan was shaking his head through the lead glass. Shrugging, I started to pull out the flashcards when suddenly Stan’s face changed. His eyes widened and his mouth opened in a warning I couldn’t hear.

    I hesitated and before I could turn around, a giant force threw me into the wall and something was being looped around my neck. The metal door shrieked as Stan wrenched it open and I was pulled back, my body turned into a human shield. The thing around my neck tightened and I panicked, unable to breathe. Lucas had my arms locked behind me in an impossibly strong grip. I fought against it, desperate to free myself.

    “Keys,” he said in a hoarse voice. I bowed my body against his, trying to find some slack in the cord around my throat, but met only a column of unyielding muscle. If anything, the cord grew tighter.

    My vision started to contract, black creeping in at the edges. I kicked viciously, striking his shins so hard they should have snapped in half, and used the rest of my oxygen in the process. The last thing I saw before everything went dark was Stan’s hand, holding out his ring of keys.

    I came to on the floor in a gasping, head-pounding mess. Stan lay next to the door, unconscious, and Lucas Blackthorn was gone.

    “Agghhh.” I grabbed my head and waited for the air to work its way back through my body. When I could get up, I crawled over to check Stan’s pulse and saw blood trickling down from his hairline. He was alive.

    A noise came from the hallway. Lots of noises, as my ears started registering them.

    I peeked out and saw patients at their isolation windows, banging and shouting. Farther down the hall, it became obvious what they were excited about: Lucas Blackthorn, trying to find the right key to get through the second set of doors.

    Without any conscious thought, I slipped Stan’s baton from his belt and darted down the hallway with Lucas’s back the only thing in focus, my progress muffled by the noise from the other patients. At Stan’s station I tripped the emergency security button and lifted the baton. Lucas was only a few feet away now, punching key after key into the old locks, oblivious to the electronic security square mounted above.

    I waited, willing myself to breathe quietly while eyeing his upper arms, his thighs, the major muscle groups I could aim for without causing unnecessary injury. He couldn’t have more than twenty pounds on me. Thirty, tops. My fingers flexed over the baton while I mentally traced the route from the front desk to this ward, counting the seconds until backup arrived. Then he flipped the keys over and found the badge, Stan’s security badge, which he stared at for a split second before pressing it to the door, making it beep and flash green. I didn’t hesitate this time. As soon as I heard the locks disengage, I swung the baton into his leg.

    He stumbled into the outer hallway, still on his feet, and started to run for the exit at the end of the corridor. I launched myself at him, jumping on his back and sending us both crashing into the wall and rolling to the floor.

    He scrambled to get up and I didn’t care how famous he was, I didn’t care if he was lost; there was no way this guy was escaping on my watch. I hooked my legs around his and locked the baton across his chest, trying to pin his arms. Shaking my hold, he flipped us both to our backs, crushing me underneath him, and grabbed for the baton.

    Voices and footfalls thundered toward us.

    “A little help,” I yelled and immediately regretted it. The words were like fire racing through my bruised throat, and I couldn’t help the moan that followed them. At my sound of pain, he released his grip on the baton and fell inexplicably still. We both paused in that crazy position—like a piggy-back ride tipped on its back—before his weight disappeared, lifted off me by the cavalry of orderlies and security staff.

    “Stan!” I waved some of them toward the ward entrance, before being seized by a fit of coughing.

    Automatically I covered my throat with my hands, trying to stop the convulsions while the team clamored around, practically tripping over me to secure our wayward patient. Their boots braced and stomped inches from my head, sending vibrations through the linoleum and into my skull, which felt as fragile as an egg on concrete. No one offered to help me up. Their voices sounded far away, eclipsed by the pull and drag of air in my throat, the unsteady rise and fall of my chest. Only the tremor in the floor, the possibility of being trampled, made me turn my head to the side and that’s when I saw him watching me.

    They’d flipped him on his stomach and pulled his arms behind him. He was putting up no resistance and barely seemed aware of their efforts to subdue him. For a strange, endless moment, our stillness separated us from the rush of legs flooding the corridor, from the shouts and determination swarming above. We stared at each other, our faces both resting on the cold, flecked tiles less than three feet apart.

    Then a needle flashed in the fluorescent lights, the men picked him up, and Lucas Blackthorn was gone.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Leave No Trace includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

    From the author of the “compelling” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) and critically acclaimed Everything You Want Me to Be, a riveting and suspenseful thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a boy and his stunning return ten years later.

    There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years earlier a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

    Search teams found their campsite ravaged. They are presumed dead until a decade later, when the son appears. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he is violent and uncommunicative and consequently sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the past ten years of his life.

    But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father, who has disappeared from the known world.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Leave No Trace is set in present-day Minnesota, both in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters and its more urban landscapes. What details does Mejia use to create atmosphere and build the setting? How does place affect the action of the story?

    2. What was your first impression of Maya? Did your feelings toward her change throughout the novel? What did you think of her when she confessed to killing Derek?

    3. Family relationships are at the heart of Leave No Trace; compare and contrast the parent-child relationships in the novel. What themes does Mejia explore within these relationships?

    4. The geography of the Boundary Waters is integral to Leave No Trace. Note the way Mejia balances the beauty and danger of this remote location in her descriptions. What passages do you find most emphasize the unique place?

    5. The other “disappeared” people Mejia mentions in the story, such as Ho Van Thanh, Agafia Lykov, and Christopher Knight, are all real people. Pick one or two and research their stories. Which disappearance most intrigues you? What do you think captures the imagination about people living away from society?

    6. What role does the Bannockburn shipwreck play in the novel? How does its story parallel the stories of characters in Leave No Trace?

    7. At the end of the novel, Mejia writes, “There are some places, though, we can only go alone.” Think about the spaces (physical, mental, emotional) that Mejia’s characters experience by themselves. Are there any common factors?

    8. As you read along, what did you think happened to Josiah, Lucas, Heather, and Jane? How did it differ from what is revealed at the end of the novel?

    9. Extreme circumstances and intertwined history aside, what do you think attracts Maya and Lucas to each other? What similar personality traits do you see in these two characters?

    10. “I was the girl who didn’t need anyone and made sure things stayed that way. . . . My life was lonely, but there was something vital in the loneliness, an imperative that I keep the space around me empty and weightless,” Maya thinks to herself after Lucas comes to her home and begins to break down her emotional barriers. How does Mejia draw the distinction between solitude and loneliness? Who in the novel would you deem lonely and who lives in solitude? How do their situations change during the course of the novel?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. For your next book group pick, read Mindy’s previous novel, Everything You Want Me to Be, and compare and contrast the main characters. What themes occur in the lives of these characters? What seems to interest Mindy about her characters in both books?

    2. Read another book set in Minnesota, such as a novel by William Kent Krueger, and discuss the ways the authors address setting and Midwestern culture. How do both portray the landscape and the people who live there?

    3. Learn more about Mindy Mejia on her website: https://mindymejia.com/

    Customer Reviews

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    Leave No Trace: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
    Anonymous 1 days ago
    heidifk 24 days ago
    Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia is the best mystery/thriller I've read this year. Set in northern Minnesota, one of my absolute favorite places to go, and I hope I live there some day, this page-turner not only captivates you from the first page, but it keeps catching you by surprise throughout the entire book. Maya Stark works in a psychiatric facility in Duluth and is given the responsibility (or opportunity) to work with Lucas Blackthorn, a young man who disappeared with his father ten years ago in the Boundary Waters. Thought to be dead, Lucas shows up one night, ransacking a store in a small town just on the edge of the Boundary Waters. He is unresponsive to anyone... until Maya talks to him.
    Cinemabelle 4 months ago
    Defying all odds, ten years after a father and son wandered into the hundreds of miles of woods and water, comprise northern Minnesota's aptly named Boundary Waters, the son emerges from the wild not only alive but changed, violent, and withdrawn. Winding up in the mental hospital where former patient turned assistant language therapist Maya Stark works, when Maya first meets nineteen-year-old Lucas Blackthorn, he lashes out, nearly choking Maya to death in a horrific assault. The only person with whom he's shared any meaningful interaction (good or bad), the unflappable Maya is sent to speak with Lucas again, only for the two to build a strong connection as Mindy Mejia's book continues and we realize that both are harboring some serious secrets. The definition of a page-turner from the start, while initially Leave No Trace's intensely vivid sentences fly right by, as the book moves from thriller to psychological mystery, it loses a good deal of suspense. Slowing things down in the middle of the work which could've used some tightening up, while it's fairly easy to see how the two characters are connected on the surface, as Maya risks everything to help Lucas and learn more, Mejia's book picks right back up, leading to an if not altogether surprising than at least satisfying conclusion. A terrific character-driven storyteller, while Mejia takes awhile to return to the pace of Trace's opening chapters, readers looking for mysterious psychological tale set against the atmospheric (and metaphorical) backdrop of such a beautiful but dangerous stretch of land and sea should pick this one up. Note: I received an ARC of the title through Bookish First in exchange for an honest review and would give this 3.5 stars if able.
    Twink 5 months ago
    I enjoyed Mindy Mejia's last book and happily picked up her latest, Leave No Trace. Lucas Blackthorne was nine when he and his father walked into the wilderness of Minnesota and never returned. Ten years later Lucas is found ransacking a store and is taken into custody. He doesn't or won't speak and refuses to communicate in any way, so he is admitted to a psychiatric facility. Where has he been? What has happened to him? Where is his father? Maya Stark is an assistant language therapist who begins to work with Lucas to find answers. Maya herself has a troubled past. (Which had me wondering how she could be working in a psychiatric facility.) Okay, let me mention again that Lucas is 19 and Maya is 23. Uh huh - you see what I'm pointing at? The attraction is there between the two and only grows as the book progresses. Mejia does a good job at ramping up the suspense. But, I have pragmatic tendencies......and I found some of the plot developments a bit far fetched and frankly unbelievable. (Seriously, an assistant speech therapist doing what she's doing? Sorry, trying not to provide spoilers.) Now, that being said, I did finish the book as I really wanted to know the final answers as to where Lucas has been. But, in the end, I felt like I had listened to a YA novel. Which I do really like. But that isn't what I was expecting when I started Leave No Trace. It was the billing of a "riveting and suspenseful thriller" that initially caught my attention. Much of that YA feeling was down to Maya. Leave No Trace is told in first person through her viewpoint. And unfortunately - I didn't like her or didn't feel a great deal of sympathy or empathy for her. For me she came across as unprofessional, irresponsible, impetuous and juvenile. I chose to listen to this latest book. I find listening to a book immerses me more fully in the story. The reader was Patricia Rodriguez and she was excellent. She had a voice that matched the age, demeanor and mental image I had imagined for the the lead character. Her voice is quite expressive and captures the tone of the plot and action very well. So, great narrator, but only a so-so listen for me.
    Twink 5 months ago
    I enjoyed Mindy Mejia's last book and happily picked up her latest, Leave No Trace. Lucas Blackthorne was nine when he and his father walked into the wilderness of Minnesota and never returned. Ten years later Lucas is found ransacking a store and is taken into custody. He doesn't or won't speak and refuses to communicate in any way, so he is admitted to a psychiatric facility. Where has he been? What has happened to him? Where is his father? Maya Stark is an assistant language therapist who begins to work with Lucas to find answers. Maya herself has a troubled past. (Which had me wondering how she could be working in a psychiatric facility.) Okay, let me mention again that Lucas is 19 and Maya is 23. Uh huh - you see what I'm pointing at? The attraction is there between the two and only grows as the book progresses. Mejia does a good job at ramping up the suspense. But, I have pragmatic tendencies......and I found some of the plot developments a bit far fetched and frankly unbelievable. (Seriously, an assistant speech therapist doing what she's doing? Sorry, trying not to provide spoilers.) Now, that being said, I did finish the book as I really wanted to know the final answers as to where Lucas has been. But, in the end, I felt like I had listened to a YA novel. Which I do really like. But that isn't what I was expecting when I started Leave No Trace. It was the billing of a "riveting and suspenseful thriller" that initially caught my attention. Much of that YA feeling was down to Maya. Leave No Trace is told in first person through her viewpoint. And unfortunately - I didn't like her or didn't feel a great deal of sympathy or empathy for her. For me she came across as unprofessional, irresponsible, impetuous and juvenile. I chose to listen to this latest book. I find listening to a book immerses me more fully in the story. The reader was Patricia Rodriguez and she was excellent. She had a voice that matched the age, demeanor and mental image I had imagined for the the lead character. Her voice is quite expressive and captures the tone of the plot and action very well. So, great narrator, but only a so-so listen for me.
    Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks 5 months ago
    Mindy Mejia has once again presented readers with a compelling, riveting mystery! Leave No Trace is as heartbreaking as it is a suspenseful mystery you want to get lost in. It left me with my mouth gaping open in disbelief and awe! *ARC provided in consideration for review*
    LeslieLindsay 7 months ago
    he mysterious disappearance of a father and his 9-year-old son into the Minnesota wilderness and then the return of that son a decade later on grief, abandonment, family, and more. Maya Stark is 23-years old and beginning her career as a speech pathologist at Congdon Psychiatric Facility. Her boss/mentor, Dr. Mehta suggests Maya work with the young 'back-from-the-dead' Lucas Blackthorn, who, after ten years of missing (presumed dead) in the wild of Minnesota is back, largely non-verbal and fighting demons. Maya isn't sure. She's young and relatively inexperienced. Yet Maya has secrets, too. Her mother abandoned she and her father years ago and she's had a series of run-ins with the law. And might Dr. Mehta be more than just her boss? Somehow, I am almost always drawn to books that have a mental health/illness aspect, even without realizing it. Sure, I knew LEAVE NO TRACE featured a speech pathologist and 'secrets,' as well as rehabilitation, but the psychiatric institution was a surprise for me. There are other aspects of mental illness, too making LEAVE NO TRACE slightly different than expected. The prose is gorgeous and alternates in POV, reading much like a slow-burn mystery: why did the father and son disappear? Where have they been all this time? But these other elements meld to bring a more complex narrative to the table. There's love and loss, family ties, friendship, all wrapped in the tender, delicate cocoon of the fragile shell of Minnesota's wilderness. There were just a few moments when I cringed thinking the set-up wasn't entirely there or professional boundaries were invaded, but overall, Mejia spins a tender story with an ending that is ultimately intrinsically serendipitous. In terms of comps, I could see LEAVE NO TRACE closely related to Rene Denfeld's THE CHILD FINDER (wildnerness setting/lost child, investigation) meets THE CROWS OF BEARA (Julie Christine Johnson) with a touch of Karin Slaughter's THE GOOD DAUGHTER (assault, scientist/geologist mother) and Heather Young's THE LOST GIRLS (Minnesota setting). L.Lindsay Always with a Book
    SarahJoint 7 months ago
    Sarah Joint's review Sep 04, 2018 · edit it was amazing Beautiful, atmospheric, and compelling. My first thought when I finished this one was a simple "wow". No doubt the forests and lakes of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota hide many secrets, but it turns out they could hide people as well. Ten years after he disappeared with his father, a boy who is now a young man appears back in civilization, caught ransacking an outfitter store. He is violent and refuses to speak to anyone, almost feral. Maya, a young language therapist, seems to be the only one to get through to him at all. While eventually he communicates with her, he is still unwilling to talk about his past... where he's been, his father, or why they vanished ten years ago. Maya is secretive to most people about her own past. She has plenty of trauma of her own, and it only encourages her to break through the walls Lucas has put up between him and anyone else. While initially the reader only thinks Lucas has stories to tell, it soon becomes clear that we have a lot to learn about Maya as well. Brave, determined, more than a little badass, we just have to know what makes her tick. The thing is that YES a lot of this book is highly implausible which would usually lead to a lower rating from me, as I've done with many books. BUT the story and characters are so compelling, the setting is so wonderful, the story telling itself is so well done, that it makes up for it. THAT is how you keep readers hooked even if they have to suspend their disbelief a bit. Well done. The little voice in the back of my head saying "this wouldn't happen this way" was shut up by my pure enjoyment of the book and the beautiful writing. That little voice now asks "when is the next book by Mindy Mejia coming out?". Four and a half stars from me. I received a copy of this book from Net Galley and Atria Books, thank you! My review is honest and unbiased.
    Anonymous 7 months ago
    Well worth the read, took me 2 Days!
    Librarian_V_Reader 7 months ago
    Librarian: At the current moment, my library has no need of adult suspense. Even if it did need it, I don't think this would be terribly high on my order list. Most of my adult patrons are professionals who either teach or work with children everyday. Honestly, many of them would be appalled by the unprofessional way that Mindy interacts with Lucas, and I could see that impacting their reaction to the book as a whole. Reader: Okay, so this is not my genre. Like at all. And this book reminded me why. I just don't like books that attempt to build suspense by straddling the real/not real, crazy/not crazy narrator line. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of unreliable narrators to begin with, but I can understand that sometimes they're called for. After all we often view things in ways that are always accurate. That's part of being human. But this one take it a bit too far. I think that if it had chosen a different narrator (Josiah perhaps-his parts are delightful or Lucas, still unreliable but more interesting) it would have been more enjoyable. Mindy is to manic pixie dream girl for my tastes.
    Candice_S 8 months ago
    This book gets filed solidly under “books I couldn’t put down so I read in one sitting”. I loved it - fast paced, unique story, atmospheric setting - put that all together for a solid must read win in my world. Synopsis: There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned. Until now. This is such a unique take a on a mystery - having the majority of the story set in a mental institution honestly transforms the plot. It likely would have never occurred to me that if you were a child who disappeared ten years prior, returned alone, got into a series of violent altercations and refused to speak to virtually anyone, that they might actually commit you in an effort to help you. You always just see those characters either in jail or being released into the general public and struggling to figure out their lives. And the institution becomes a bit of its own character, which I always enjoy. I honestly struggle to offer too much of a review outside of this on this one, because I don’t want to take away from any reader getting to unreel this mystery for themselves; but safe to say that Mindy writes beautifully about this area and the wilderness - I felt like I was in this forest with Maya and Lucas and added canoeing these lakes to my personal bucket list based on this book alone. It is just gorgeously written. I also loved the characters - I love confusing, complex, dark characters and this is a story with nothing but. Especially with Maya - I love a good female lead who is strong-willed, capable and determined to see her plans through. It’s exceptionally refreshing and I enjoyed every page of her journey - I could probably read several more chapters of her story, which tells you how much I enjoyed this. This beauty is now out so get this on your fall must reads list!
    Lanie 8 months ago
    I received a copy of this book and am voluntarily and honestly reviewing it. Initially assumed dead after disappearing with his father and being missing for 10 years, 19 year old Lucas Blackthorn reemerges. Maya Stark, a speech therapist dealing with abandonment issues, is assigned to him. She struggles to get him to open up in order to find out what happened to him. I've never read any of Mindy Mejia's works before so this one was a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed the plot and the characters, though they were some rather predictable character traits and plot points. I also found myself disliking the plot twist. It just seemed to be executed rather poorly and definitely could have been done better. It's a mostly entertaining work despite that, it just has a few setbacks.
    Racie0417 8 months ago
    4.5 stars for a well done psychology suspense that is unpredictable and compelling. Maya is a speech therapist in a mental hospital who has been assigned to a forensic patient, Lucas, a 19 year old who had been missing with his dad for 10 years and was arrested in an incident at a camping outfitters store in a town that Maya has her own history in. The story is mostly told in Maya’s point of view with some key chapters from Josiah, Lucas’ father. The power parents have over children is one of the themes, as well as the line between sanity and insanity. Do yourself a favor and avoid spoilers for this book. I loved that it kept me guessing. I adored the ending of the book and how everything tied up
    Lorizen 8 months ago
    Incredible story with an twisted, suspenseful plot and two very deep main characters. Ms Meija cast her line and I took the bait hook, line and sinker. When Lucas Blackthorne resurfaces after years gone missing with his father, both thought dead in the wilds of the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, he's brought to the mental health facility where Maya works as a Speech Pathologist. She works under rate direction of the lead Psychiatrist there, a woman who knows Maya well, since Maya herself spent some time there some years ago. Maya's history is as Lucas's at times. Maya is sent to work with Lucas, since he hasn't spoken since his admission and the Dr is trying to determine if he even speaks. Lucas is on a locked ward and in a locked room. Maya is well on her guard but it's at their first meeting where he tries to choke her to death and almost succeeds. These two connect in some unexpected way, and will continue to connect throughout this carefully unravelled story. Maya establishes a rapport with Lucas and also becomes a friend to him. She understands in some deep way where he's at. Meanwhile at home, her father who she still lodges with when he's not out trolling the waters of Lake Superior, happens to be at home and notices her injuries, he beefs- she shuts him down. Her mother left years ago. A geologist, she taught Maya all about the Basalt and the Boundary waters. The agate that forms within the Basalt. Lucas gradually learns to cooperate after Maya tells him how things go there, that privileges are earned and his goal of course, is to get outside. He's been living in the wilds since he and his father disappeared. After several attempts to escape, he's once again back in the locked ward and Maya is pulled off his case. Maya had once promised to help Lucas and after a series of events it becomes apparent to her that she can and she does. Again we start down another twisted road of backstory and events that couldn't be seen coming. So carefully crafted and well told, these what these two people did for each other whatever the circumstance was perfectly written. I am purposely avoiding details and telling too much of the storyline. This is one book I think the reader should just step into and come up for air as needed. Epilogues were well done and a nice bonus. Stellar read, perfectly written right down to the last detail. She never missed a beat. Well done!! 4.5 stars arc from NetGalley and publisher with many thanks for my honest review.
    Angie0184 8 months ago
    This is my first book from Mindy Mejia, but after reading the First Look offered by Bookish First, I knew I had to have the book. Thank you for the ARC! I was 100% not disappointed and finished the book in a little over a day. The characters were compelling and flawed and Leave no Trace was an interesting mix of mental health issues, redemption, coming of age in a home overflowing with depression, and love story. My heart broke for Maya, and while there was some suspension of disbelief involved in accepting that so much bad could happen to two families, and then somehow they happened to intercept later in life, that’s what fiction is for and I greatly enjoyed reading this book. It was masterfully suspenseful and tragically romantic. Ms. Mejia is a very talented author and I’m greatly looking forward to more from her.
    PegGlover 8 months ago
    Nineteen-year-old Lucas Blackthorn and his father disappeared in the Minnesota Boundary Waters wilderness, ten-years ago. They were both assumed dead. But when Lucas Blackthorn ransacked a nearby outfitter store, the search for his father resumed. Lucas was sent to a nearby psychiatric hospital. He was mute and unresponsive. Assistant speech therapist, Maya Stark was assigned to work with Lucas Blackthorn. The staff at the hospital were amazed when Maya received an immediate response from Lucas. It baffled everyone, but Lucas, as to why he would connect with Maya, and no one else. Against hospital rules, Maya became emotionally involved with Lucas. She became his ally, and crossed professional lines, risking her job, her heart, and her future. Lucas needed to find his father. Maya did too, but not for the same reason. Maya had her own secrets and agenda. She wanted answers. Leave No Trace is a complex and compelling thriller. Although I didn’t find the book entirely realistic, I was engrossed in the story from the first page. Thank you, Atria Books and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
    waiting4the2ndstar 8 months ago
    This book is a rollercoaster of surprising twists and turns. I was riveted from the first page, left guessing until the very end. Equal parts tragic and heartwarming, this has the potential to be one of the greatest mysteries of the year. The plot of this book packs a killer punch. I frequently don’t care for mysteries because I can predict the endings too easily. With this book, that was not the case. And, upon completing the book, I was impressed by the tiny “puzzle pieces” I could see throughout the story--ones I may not have noticed on the first read-through. While most of the book is told in first person and in the present, the third-person flashbacks fit in very smoothly and provided just the right amount of information at the right times. The big twists are definitely extreme, and yet the story still feels probable. I was so enraptured, I wanted to finish it in one sitting! The characters in this book are enigmatic and mysterious, and yet still relatable. I enjoyed Maya and all of her sass. She is a great narrator--not quite unreliable, but certainly not forthcoming with all the facts you need. There are also a few decent attempts at representation here, including race, mental health, and sexuality. Of course, opportunities to be more diverse always exist, but there was an attempt made here to represent different groups. The one character I took issue with was Lucas, who in many ways felt inauthentic to me. He was nine years old when he and his dad went into the woods. Now, he’s nineteen and supposedly experiencing the “real world” for the first time. For someone who was raised in the wilderness with only his father for companionship, he’s super well-adjusted and has a huge vocabulary. In fact, there were a couple times where he sounded like a college professor, or another very educated individual. Not a lot of detail is given about what Lucas’ life was like in the woods, but his forest home gives no allusion to literature or schooling of any kind. Also, during a scene in which he and Maya are hiking through those woods, his knowledge of how to travel and survive is not that much above hers. So, while I liked the personality of our male lead, I found him very unconvincing for the role he was supposed to play. Despite my dislike of Lucas’ character, I had a huge appreciation for Mejia’s writing. You can tell how well-researched this novel is. I learned a lot from what I read. I also felt Mejia’s knowledge added an extra layer of authenticity to the overall work. At times this wealth of knowledge made the prose heady and disjointed, but I still valued the thought that went into the details. Overall, this was an excellent mystery with a focus on family and parents. It’s twisty as hell, with a plot that gripped me on every page. It’s chilling in its unapologetic approach to sensitive topics, and it stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. I’d highly recommend this book to mystery lovers everywhere, with a word of caution toward the trigger warnings I listed above. If you like psychological thrillers with dark and mysterious settings, you’re going to like this book.
    BookCoholic 8 months ago
    Enjoyed the wild ride. Lucas and Maya are two damaged souls who find caring and acceptance in an inexplicable set of circumstances. Who knows how they were able to trust in each other? There's no easy answer to this question, and yet I don't care that it can't be answered! Leave No Trace is not only a narrative of human relationships, but its setting of Minnesota and the Boundary Waters shapes the story as well. This main character of the harshness of nature ties in with the sense of hurt that humans bring to each other, whether it's harm through death or abandonment. This is not a fast paced book. It does contain action, but most of the story is the unwinding of the family histories of Lucas and Maya and the surprising ways that they interconnect. Although I liked all of the characters, my heart belongs to Jasper the dog.
    SheTreadsSoftly 8 months ago
    Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia is a highly recommended character driven novel of suspense. Maya Stark, 23, works as a speech therapist at the Congdon Psychiatric Facility in Duluth, Minnesota, but she is also a young woman with a past. Her mother, Jane, left home and abandoned her when Maya was 10. While her father did the best he could, Maya fell into a rough crowd after that. She also was a patient at Congdon at one time. But after that she pulled herself together, attended college, received her degree, and got her position at Congdon. When 19-year-old Lucas Blackthorn is admitted to Congdon after a burglary attempt it makes the news because Lucas disappeared along with his father, Josiah, ten years ago while camping in the Boundary Waters area in Northern Minnesota and Canada. They were presumed dead, but here is Lucas, alive and well, although at the hospital because he is uncommunicative - until he meets Maya and seems to recognize her. Their first encounter is violent, but they eventually form a truce and begin to connect. She learns that Josiah is still alive, maybe, and Lucas was just trying to get him help. Lucas, however will not tell her where they were living. While the narrative follows present day Maya and Lucas, it also reveals the backstory of Maya and Josiah, which makes for some very compelling intense reading. There are some similarities between Maya and Lucas's stories, but also many differences. You can see the motivation behind their actions and thought processes. They are both flawed characters; loners, wary, but also survivors. Maya is a brilliant but flawed character and I was fascinated by her even while I was thinking, "No, don't do that - bad choice!" Maya's background is much more troubled and brutal, but Lucas's survivalist background living alone with his father in the Boundary Waters through the brutal winters you know had to require determination, tenacity, and skill. Mejia knows how to write an exceptional story and she has given us another very good suspense novel with Leave No Trace. The plot is taunt and riveting with enough action to keep the steady pace moving. The backstory and character development in Leave No Trace set it apart and makes the novel a riveting story. Yes, there are a few moments where you will question Maya's choices and others where you will have to suspend disbelief; but, setting that aside, I know I sat down to read Leave No Trace and finished it that night. The setting in the Boundary Waters resonated with me because I actually was on a camping and canoeing trip there years ago. I could picture the maps of the area (or dig out my old one) and clearly see how someone could disappear in the area wilderness. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.
    judgie39 8 months ago
    After being arrested, Josiah Blackthorn and his son, Lucas, head into the woods to go camping and never return. Ten years later Lucas is arrested for breaking into an outdoors store and sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment where he meets Maya. Maya is the speech therapist assigned to work with Lucas. She is the only person he responds to and so it is her job to find out where he has been for the past ten years and to uncover where his father is. Maya has secrets of her own and she and Lucas form a special bond, as he confides in her that he must return to his father. But why? The opening chapter immediately sucks the reader in and leaves you wanting more. I found the characters, their interactions and stories, fascinating. I could not put this book down. Leave No Trace is a story about survival and the many forms that it takes. A must read.
    book_junkee 8 months ago
    I was borderline obsessed with Mindy’s other book, so when I saw this one, I basically jumped on it without reading the synopsis. I loved Maya. She’s smart and resourceful and she’s got a lot of things going on. I loved the relationship she had with her dad and the dog might have been the best part. There are other characters, but I’m not going to say anything about them. Plot wise, the pages were laced with tension pretty much from the start. There were a few things I didn’t see coming and I audibly gasped while reading. I enjoyed the layers being revealed and the deliciously slow build up. Overall, it was a phenomenal read and I can’t wait to see what Mindy does next. **Huge thanks to Atria Books for providing the arc free of charge**
    WeezieL 8 months ago
    Won Paperback ARC from BookishFirst.com! Leave No Trace did not do what its title suggested. I haven't stopped thinking about this book since I finished it yesterday. I read it in two days, most of the time I could not put it down. Right off the bat it was immersive and interesting. Lucas Blackthorn has been missing for ten years, lost in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota (along with his father), and all of a sudden he's nineteen years old and robbing an outfitter's store, accidentally helping cause a death, and being admitted into Congdon, a mental health facility. He comes blazing into Maya Stark's life and refuses to leave. Maya is a broken young woman trying to mend. Her mother left her when she was a child, her father has his own escape on his tugboat, boating on Lake Superior looking for a ghost ship. Maya has a trauma that sends her into Congdon at a young age versus going to jail. She becomes an orderly there, goes to college, and moves up the ranks as the assistant speech therapist. Her psychiatrist is now her boss. These two characters are pure and real and struggling for so much. Lucas wants to find his father, Maya wants to find her mother. Both could be broken beyond repair but can they mend each other? Can someone find Lucas's father before it's too late and Minnesota's harsh winter sets in? I enjoyed reading this book even though some of Maya's decisions I did not agree with.
    lauriesophee 8 months ago
    An intense psychological thriller, taking place in a guarded psychiatric facility and in the thick woods of Minnesota called Boundary Waters. The suspense builds as Maya a speech therapist, becomes enmeshed with a young resident in the ward considered "dangerous". She is determined at all cost to help him, despite the risks and dangers involved. This is truly a captivating story that won't let you go until the very last page! Excellent!
    RowingRabbit 8 months ago
    After reading “Everything You Want Me to Be” last year, I knew this was an author I would follow. In this outing she gives us a very different book but with equally compelling characters. The blurb gives a great snapshot of the story so I won’t get into the plot too much. The MC’s are 2 damaged people who have more in common than you initially think. Maya Stark is a speech therapist at Congdon Psychiatric Facility. Her youth, innovative style & maroon hair set her apart. She lives with her dad Brian who really wishes she worked somewhere else. Especially after her…em…spot of trouble a few years back. Lucas Blackthorne is Congdon’s infamous new resident. After vanishing with his father 10 years ago, his sudden reappearance has caused quite a stir. The media & groupies are camped out at the gates waiting to hear his story but Lucas isn’t talking. Then he meets Maya. And one struggling outsider recognizes another. Don’t go into this expecting a thrill-a-minute ride. There are moments of action but that’s not what this is about. Like the previous book, it’s about the characters & the effect of the ripples they cause as they pass through each other’s lives. On one hand, it’s a compelling mystery as we slowly learn the MC’s histories. On the other, it touches on deeper themes such as family, loss, memories & the grey area around right vs. wrong. Strong secondary characters flesh out the story as we follow Maya & Lucas on their deeply personal search to understand the past. The last quarter has some reveals that may make you rethink what you thought you knew. And while a couple of them may stretch disbelief a teensy bit, it’s all part of the journey in this strong, well written tale.
    Cmdale 8 months ago
    At times the brokenness and pain was hard to take but at the same time I couldn't put this book down. The author did such a good job of character development that you came to know Maya and Lucas intimately. And even the secondary characters, Maya's mom and Lucas' father were captured as tragically broken people. Maya was so driven by her past and her feelings of abandonment that she would do anything to help Lucas. She is tough and confused, broken and scarred, smart and crafty. Lucas is desperate and caught up in a world he has never been allowed to know. These two young people are thrown together by their circumstances and it's no surprise they form a tight bond. The last few chapters are breathtaking and frantic and the ending is definitely a surprise.