Angelini’s (Trial by Fire) sometimes-gruesome mystery turned thriller teems with heart-pounding action and suspense. Wealthy New Yorker Magdalena, 18, is visiting her Pacific Northwest grandparents for the summer following a murder investigation at her private high school that led to a nervous breakdown and a stint in a mental health facility. Still heavily medicated, Magda is eager for a fresh start after her devastating lies ostracized her from parents and friends, and she slowly reunites with old summer acquaintances, including charming and manipulative Rob. When she meets Bo, who is living illegally with his family in the National Forest behind her grandparents’ house, she falls for him. But as remnants of bodies start appearing in the woods and rumors circulate about a rogue scientist feeding drugs into the community, Magda investigates, risking those she loves. Though uneven character development is capped off with a too-tidy ending, Angelini intersperses Magda’s first-person voice with flashbacks of her past to create a riveting portrait of an unreliable and cunning narrator. Includes trigger warnings for mentions of abuse, racism, and self-harm.Ages 14–up. Agent: Annette Dal Jensen, Macmillan Children’s Books UK. (Dec.)■
"A tense thriller leaving the reader to wonder just who is the bad guy and who the good, along with Magda herself, this is a taut, well-told mystery." — Youth Services Book Review
"A thoughtful, engaging YA thriller that touches upon mental health, social issues, and how words are used to manipulate reality." — School Library Journal
"A tense, no-holds-barred page-turner." — Kirkus Reviews
"Teems with heart-pounding action and suspense...Angelini intersperses Magda’s first-person voice with flashbacks of her past to create a riveting portrait of an unreliable and cunning narrator." — Publishers Weekly
"An entertaining narrative that explores mental health, trust, betrayal, friendship, and the ways in which whiteness and privilege shape the narrative of substance abuse. A fascinating, mind-bending thrill ride." — Booklist
Gr 9 Up—When Magdalena is sent to her grandparents' Washington State summer home after a scandal at her private school, she has to simultaneously navigate her own recovery, new relationships, and, later on, an encounter with a serial killer. Now, white 18-year-old Magda is self-aware and can deftly sidestep social pitfalls…but she wasn't always that way. Through her recollections, readers learn she used to be a popular socialite with a remarkable talent for the written word. Then, her selfish plans backfired, one after the other. As readers meet the post-scandal Lena first, she remains a sympathetic character even after revealing her appalling actions. Both her regrets and her first-person narrative voice, which feels disillusioned by life and detached from others, reveal a character who genuinely wants to be better. By recognizing her classicist, racist, socially-driven attitudes, and by meeting the romantic interest, Bo, Lena starts to work through her trauma and dependency on prescription drugs. Her present-day narrative and past revelations dive deeper in tandem, thoroughly linking plot, emotional state, and thematic material. VERDICT A thoughtful, engaging YA thriller that touches upon mental health, social issues, and how words are used to manipulate reality.—Rachel Forbes, Oakville P.L., Ont.
A privileged girl grapples with trauma and mental health—while bodies turn up in the woods.
After her release from a psychiatric hospital, highly medicated Magdalena is exiled from Manhattan society and sent to her grandparents’ posh Washington state vacation home. She reconnects with the set from her childhood summer vacations there, including Rob (post–glow-up and crushing on her since age 13), and volunteers at a woman’s rehab shelter in a nearby town with other friends. But when she goes in the woods to think, she encounters a “Wildboy” named Bo with whom she immediately connects. In the first narrative arc, tension comes from her blossoming romance and in the slow reveal, via journal-entry flashbacks, of the dark past that prompted her breakdown. She fully owns up to racist, classist attitudes that enabled her scandal and considers her mistakes unforgivable. As she’s drawn deeper into Bo’s off-the-grid world (for example, meeting his parents, who push for her to get off her high-powered meds), the bodies of dead women are discovered and she hears of local, mythical, drug-dealing murderer Dr. Goodnight. While certain plot elements ring false, the quick pace allows readers to gloss over them and dive into the twisted mystery as Magdalena tries to figure out whom to trust—and if she can even trust herself. Sensitive readers should heed the book’s content warning and brace for suicidal themes and violence. Most characters are White.
A tense, no-holds-barred page-turner. (mental health resources) (Thriller. 14-18)