Publisher: David C. Cook
Price: $14.99 Paperback
$ 8.99 E-Book
Genre: Christian/Mystery/Young Adult
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I need to start by saying that true "Christian" literature is not my cup of tea. It is just a personal idiosyncrasy, but they are usually too preachy for me. Therefore I hardly ever seek them out. What drew me to this book, though, was the setting. I grew up in the Midwest US and spent most of my summers in the Ozark Mountains. When I saw that this book was set in the Ozarks, it peaked my interest and I will readily admit that I did not look any further. So, I want to say upfront, this book is definitely Christian Lit and it never pretends to be anything else. Accordingly, although I would have enjoyed the book much better myself without the strictly religious references, that is my fault and not that of the book or the author.
The main protagonists in this story, Abby and Jay, are best friends and high school students. Abby has lived with the tragedy of her father and youngest sister's disappearance 5 years before the book is set. Jay has his own set of skeletons that he would like to keep buried. When Abby sees a girl in town that she feels HAS to be her missing sister, she enlists Jay in helping her to find out who she is and whether she could, in fact, be Riley Jo. The story that the author weaves around the sighting of the young girl and the subsequent search for her identity was well presented and kept my interest throughout the book. I really did become engrossed in the story, and found the mystery part of the book hard to put down. I found myself saying "just a few more pages.....and a few more.....and a few more...." In addition, the characters in the book were well developed and easy to identify with. Although I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out, I really found myself rooting for all of the characters and hoping that everything turned out just the way that they wanted it to.
I admit, though, that I was most drawn to the setting of this book. As I said above, I spent most of my summers as I was growing up in the Ozark Mountains. In fact, my grandparents had a house on Beaver Lake in Arkansas, and my cousin still lives in the house today. I am very familiar with the area.....the lake, Benton County (my cousin works for the sheriff's department), Fayetteville, Rogers, Eureka Springs, etc. I loved reading about this area in a book and felt that the author's representation of the inhabitants,the town folks and the "mountain" families, the sheriff's department, the tourists, and those that cater to them, was spot on.
Ultimately this was a book about faith. Faith in God, faith in the people around you, faith in the law and those that administer it, and faith in the world in general. As such, the book presented just the right balance of things that worked out and those that didn't. In fact, it would have been easy for the author to give this story an unbelievable, sugar sweet, Happily Ever After ending. To her credit, she did not do that. The ending had just the right amount of positive elements without having everything turn out perfect. Kudos to her for that!
In short, this story was well written, with engaging, positive characters who were good role models. If you are a fan of Christian Literature in all of its forms, I would highly recommend this book. Alternately, if you have middle schoolers and even young high schoolers and you would like to present them with a book that has a positive message and good role models, I would also recommend this book. It is the first in a trilogy, and while I am not sure whether I will read the others or not, I am keeping an open mind about it. To the author - the fact that I read a book so far out of my regular wheelhouse and enjoyed it so much is a testament to your writing skill and ability to tell a story.