February 21, 2011
Reader Gut Reaction:What impressed me most about this book was how much complexity and honesty of emotion the author was able to pack into what is initially a deceptively simple setup for a story—Girl Spends Summer with Small-Town Relatives, Leading to Self-Discovery. It's not a premise that I'm necessarily drawn to, but other elements of the story helped draw me in, like the characters' love of mountain biking—and their discovery of a near-murder. Oh, and that great cover.
Concerning Character: Once I was solidly involved in the story (which didn't take long) I found myself really enjoying the voice of the narrator, Sadie Lester. It's very honest and real, and the quiet simmering energy of her personality fits her role as first an observer and, later, a girl determined to find out what's happened to her friend, Allie. Allie herself is a character who's compelling because of her mysteriousness—Allie doesn't know much about her, not even where she lives, and those details end up being of crucial importance after Allie disappears. Allie also makes a great complement to Sadie, encouraging her to improve her biking and not taking any BS. Of course, there's the love interest, Joe, who first comes across as a just-slightly-bad-boy but is really just a nice boy trying to battle intense grief. And, finally, there are Bad Guys, and boy, are they scary Deliverance types.
Recommended for Fans Of...: Stories of going away for the summer and finding yourself in the process, like Sarah Dessen's Keeping the Moon and Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos; stories about overcoming your own troubles enough to trust others, like Jennifer Hubbard's The Secret Year or The Miles Between by Mary Pearson; and stories about pushing your limits.
Themes & Things: The idea of self-discovery is strong here—specifically, discovering what you're really made of when you're put to the test. That theme comes out in so many ways, from Allie's mountain biking to Joe overcoming one of his most intense fears to Allie confronting her demons (I don't want to give too much away, so I won't be more specific than that). Another important part of this story is the meaning of friendship, and what it means to stand by someone through thick and thin and trust them enough to reveal your secrets.
Authorial Asides: As a fellow Flux author, I met Rebecca Fjelland Davis at the Kidlitcon last October and at ALA this past January, and I really enjoyed talking with her. (You know those people that you just immediately hit it off with? I love that, and I'm happy to have another "author pal" out there.) You can visit her on her website and blog, and read more about her own impressive exploits as a mountain biker.
You can find Chasing AllieCat at an independent bookstore near you!