July 01, 2016

Turning Pages Reads: TWISTED by Hannah Jayne

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!

Every adult summer of my life, I look back with disgust on the summers I squandered, wishing school would start again. Adult Me wishes I had endless days off to read basically non-improving books. We call them "beach reads" because they're quick and light, but that doesn't mean they have to be dumb - they're just an afternoon's entertainment. While normally you might not go seeking a book about, say, the child of a serial killer, that might be the type of book that distracts you in an airport, doctor's office, or keeps you awake on a lazy afternoon outdoors. Without giving away any spoilers, this novel has misdirection, emotional confusion and multiple good guys to confuse its mystery narrative.

It starts with a girl who's keeping secrets.

Synopsis: She's starting over. Pixie cutting and lightening her long brown hair. Ditching her old wardrobe for Basic Teen, Generic. Changing her name. Abandoned daughter of an alleged murderer Beth Anne Reimer is now Bex Andrews, in a new city, with new foster parents and a whole new outlook on life. No longer tainted by history in the city of Raleigh, four hours away in the quirkily named Kill Devil Hills, there is nothing dark, nothing bad, and nothing tragic haunting her. If Bex could just sort of ...tune in, and make sure her new foster parents like her, make certain that she plays her part, she'll begin to believe that everything might be really all right now.

And, contrary to Bex's expectations, everything's... fine. She makes friends, immediately - with cheerleaders, no less. A boy claims her from the herd, paying her special attention she's never received before. This is what everyone wants, right? Bex is now living the American Teen, Generic dream. But, it still doesn't feel right. Every shadow makes her jump, every unexpected touch launches her out of her seat. And then, a friend she's just barely made is murdered --

-- and everything dark and bad and haunting and tragic that Bex fears is back in her face, larger than life.

All she wants - desperately - is for the past to stay gone. But, if she's not exactly clear about the truth of the past, maybe she owes it to herself to find out what really happened back then, for real. Maybe then, she can lay her ghosts to rest, once and for all.

Observations: I picked this book up because too often in YA lit, adults are used as set pieces to be moved around the stage at the convenience of the main character. My parents, bless them, were NEVER convenient, and I wanted to read a book which depicted realistic adults. While this book makes an attempt to do that, showing the painful and often confusing journey Bex takes in dealing with her past, the novel relies heavily on no one ever talking to an adult like they're a real person to make the plot work, which didn't work for me.

Several spooky things happen - a back porch gift, which turns out to be tainted, a postcard, and a few other exchanges - and there's no follow up. No one talks to a policeman, a teacher, a school counselor, or each other, ever again about the cumulative body of evidence that SOMETHING is wrong. I recognize that these books are meant to be depicting teens, but as I often grouse, young doesn't mean stupid. Bex isn't swanning around, trying to play Nancy Drew, and while eventually she doesn't know whom she can trust, her friends at least should have had some questions about what they discovered -- questions which they should have asked insistently, until they got answers.

Conclusion: For the most part, entertaining with a bit of a thrill, this twisty mystery isn't a Whodunnit so much as a Who Do I Trust, which is more nerve wracking, in many ways. The ending is a bit rushed, but those seeking a soupcon of danger with a reassuring Happily Ever After will find that here.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. And, after July 5, you can find TWISTED by Hannah Jayne at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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