Monday, December 20, 2010

by Mary Jane Beaufrand
Little, Brown and Company
Review copy from publisher for Cybils consideration.

Veronica Severance feels cut off from the world. Forced to move from the city to rural Oregon with her parents, she is haunted by loneliness and by the chilling sounds of the Santiam, the river that runs through her backyard.
Through the fog of isolation, Ronnie finds herself becoming close with Karen, a young girl who she babysits. But when she discovers Karen's body on the banks of the Santiam, the victim of a supposed accident, Ronnie feels compelled to uncover the truth.
As she becomes increasingly obsessed with solving Karen's death, Ronnie is led deeper and deeper into the woods surrounding the river and to the dark secret hidden within its midst.
Haunting. Compelling. Edge-of-your-seat reading. How many cliche terms could we come up with to describe this book? Probably a lot more! Fortunately, a) they are all true, and b) the book itself is anything but a cliche. Along with a good murder mystery, we have some fantastic character development and skillful writing.

Ronnie represents any of a million teens who find themselves suddenly out of their element, but never becomes a stereotype. She isn't thrilled about the move, but isn't so whiny and self-centered that she fails to see how it really was a good thing for her family. Despite being the girl from the 'big city', we discover she isn't quite as streetwise as some of her new friends. Readers might be able to see things a bit faster than she does, but it just doesn't seem important. We are drawn into her character, and perfectly content to experience things right along with her.

Other characters and the area itself are portrayed just as vividly, with more showing than telling (for which we are eternally grateful, after some of the describe-every-outfit books we have been forced to read lately). The atmosphere itself seems to become a character at times. This is a book that stays with you for a while, although you may not be able to put your finger on exactly why. We give it a

5 out of 5.

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