|This cover is really awesome.|
It's two years later, and now Jamie's seventeen, with his life more or less in a routine. His home life with his adoptive parents is okay, but not great. He's seeing a therapist, but he still doesn't remember a lot about the traumas in his past. He's avoided by most people at school, but the new girl seems to like him. He struggles with a mysterious neurological thing--a cataplexy--that seems to be stress-induced: his hands go completely numb and paralyzed, but it doesn't happen that often. Until, of course, his sister comes back into the picture, prompting not only the return of Jamie's physical symptoms but a whole host of questions and unpleasant flashbacks about their traumatic childhood. But she's the only one who really knows what happened the night of the fire, and in their past. So Jamie will have to confront the truth--and his sister--if he wants closure.
Peaks: The suspense created by the structure of this story--movement between the past, before the fire, and the present--is very effective, and makes this a real page-turner. The author does an amazing job treading the balance between what the reader knows (or suspects) and what the protagonist knows (or suspects). One of my pet peeves in books where the protagonist unconsciously knows more than s/he consciously knows is when it's obvious to the reader, and therefore it feels like I'm being manipulated as I read, which boots me out of the story faster than you can say "obtrusive storytelling."
In Complicit, though, the mystery is heightened by the fact that Jamie knows there are things he doesn't know. He's trying to figure them out, and we know trauma has made him not remember. I didn't feel deliberately misled because I felt very close to the character as he fumbles his way toward the truth, frightening as it is. He's relatable, and the stark contrast with his troubled sister, Cate, elicits even more sympathy.
Valleys: This was a really good book. I don't have any major criticisms--I was impressed by how the author handled the slow reveal of information and clues, so that the reader (well, this reader) only begins to suspect what truly happened as we near the end of the story. And I don't think it's really a negative criticism to say that a book's ending made me exclaim "WHY!! Why did you do this to me?" (I shan't elaborate, for fear of spoilers, but that's what happened.)
Conclusion: Fans of mystery and suspense, as well as dramatic family stories, will really enjoy this one, I think. If you liked her first book, Charm & Strange; if you liked E. Lockhart's latest; if you like Swati Avasthi and Laurie Halse Anderson (particularly her latest, The Impossible Knife of Memory, which I think I still need to review), I recommend Complicit.
I purchased my copy of this book from an independent bookstore at KidLitCon. You can find COMPLICIT by Stephanie Kuehn at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!