Part languid thriller, part coming-of-age tale, Knecht’s atmospheric debut deftly follows the doubts of teenage self-discovery into larger uncertainties about personal safety, the specter of terrorism, and the role of authority. A hazy summer of babysitting, listlessness, and ambiguous flirtation with her best friend, Nelson, stretches ahead for 16-year-old Livy Markos, navigating adolescence in the enervated rust belt town of Lomoth, Pa. But sudden catastrophe ruptures her ritualized ennui: FBI agents cordon off the town, suspecting it harbors a fugitive from the republic of Georgia. Choked by heat and fear, the community disintegrates. Relationships fracture and long-buried secrets surface, while the shutdown kindles teenage restlessness into a desperate excursion that entangles Livy in dark ethical and legal consequences. Knecht’s teenagers speak authentically: at once self-aggrandizing and curious, wary and naive, torn between the need to belong and the drive to differentiate. Readers will be immersed in the vision of America drawn by this bracing, uneasy account of a fading small town seized in a modern state of emergency. (Mar.)
"The relationships between sixteen-year-old Livy Marko, her best friend Nelson, and their contrasting parentshers are too lax; his are too strictare forever altered when they become caught up in a robbery and kidnapping that go awry. The dying rust-belt town of Lomath, Pennsylvania, is road-blocked and its electricity cut off while the FBI conducts a house-by-house search for an international criminal who is believed to be hiding nearby. As the town lockdown continues, paranoia grows, long-hidden secrets are revealed, and Livy and Nelson learn that even unintentional actions can have irreparable consequences. This suspenseful microcosm of teenage ennui and isolation surprises the reader with a fresh premise and likable charactersan impressive debut of literary fiction with a strong YA crossover."
It’s rare to read something that so perfectly captures the in-between of friendship or something more. You get the feeling that Livy is sticking her toe in the deep end, testing whether sex with Nelson could mean the end of their relationship, or the beginning of one even more delicate, complex, and lovely than they had before.
In her beautifully written, fresh debut novel, Rosalie Knecht puts us smack in the middle of a heat wave in the waning days of summer in a small rust-belt town of Pennsylvania. The high temperature, lack of breeze and ennui of the town are palpable. As the town is quarantined from the outside world by police barricades a loss of power, its residents are caught up in the manhunt for a fugitive of the Republic of Georgia who’s hiding in their midst. Sixteen year-old Livy, her parents and the residents of Lomath, PA consider whether the real threat comes from the fugitive or rather from within their midst. This summer will change Livy’s world forever. Lulling prose, vivid characters and a sense of place make this a rich and memorable read from an exciting new talent.
Moving between the perspective of a teenaged girl and a desperate fugitive, RELIEF MAP combines elements of the coming-of-age pastoral with the political thriller. Beautifully written, heart-felt and mesmerizing, this book puts Rosalie Knecht on the map as a major talent.
Relief Map is a first-rate literary thriller in the Hitchcock tradition, where a police blockade turns a small town into a pressure cooker, secrets unravel in the heat, and the real danger comes not from the criminals, but from the police and the not-so-innocent bystanders. A quietly chilling novel about the loss of innocence against the backdrop of the modern war on terrorism.
When the electricity goes out in Livy Marko's town of Lomath, PA, the residents' immediate concern is the stifling summer heat. But when the police and FBI close access roads to the town, it is clear that the residents are dealing with more than a routine power failure. A fugitive from the Republic of Georgia is on the loose, and as days pass, the residents begin to chafe against law enforcement's strict ban on travel outside of the town. Livy and her best friend, Nelson, become part of a classmate's plan to escape to retrieve medication for his mother. Livy's quiet summer is upended by a series of events that force her to deal with a variety of moral issues. These dilemmas, as well as global issues of terrorism and the reach of law enforcement, are what make this book a strong conversation-starter for YA fans. The small-town setting, while unique in its description, contains a universal collection of characters to whom readers will relate. Perhaps what will resonate most with young adults is Livy's transition to a more sophisticated, although complicated, perspective on her relationship with Nelson and her parents. In both cases, Livy is forced to see things she overlooked and reconcile these truths with her own morals and feelings. VERDICT Teens will enjoy this well-written novel as a fine piece of storytelling; it's also a wonderful option for book club discussions.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
When the hunt for a fugitive causes police to institute a lockdown, everyday tensions in a quiet Pennsylvania town threaten to boil over in Knecht's atmospheric debut. At 16, Livy Marko is in the midst of the kind of small-town adolescence about which indie movies are made: she's spending the sweltering summer babysitting, waitressing, and swimming in the creek with her longtime best friend, Nelson. So when the power goes out, it seems, at first, to "fit into a grand pattern of municipal slights"—Lomath, Pennsylvania, is not, in general, a hub of international intrigue. But, as soon becomes clear, the outage is no accident: the local police have blocked off the town on FBI orders. A fugitive from the Republic of Georgia is hiding in the Lomath woods, though the police won't say more, and no one can come in or out of town until he's found. As the lockdown drags on with no end in sight, the community becomes increasingly restless, and Livy finds herself inadvertently entangled in a potentially dangerous plot (or two)—and getting a surprise crash course in moral ambiguity along the way. Livy, however, isn't the only one in Lomath keeping secrets; even her parents are more complicated than they initially appear. Knecht expertly captures the subtle social dynamics of a town suspended in crisis, chronicling mounting anxiety in crisp, unfussy prose. But while Livy and her family are drawn with tremendous precision—Livy's relationship with her parents, in particular, is delightfully nuanced, and her complicated friendship with Nelson is fantastically un-twee—the novel occasionally feels just a bit overpopulated, with a few too many local personalities who never quite come into focus. Similarly, periodic sections focusing on the fugitive's story are uniformly intriguing but lack the immediacy and impact of Livy's narrative. A thoughtful novel that resists easy moralizing.