This is one of those books you grab off the shelf at the library thinking "Eh it'll keep me busy for a few hours." And then end up devouring in an hour and a half.
Right off the bat I identified with the main character Tessa. She's shy, quiet and needs her best friend to pull her into social activities. Much like I was in High School. She's a 16 year old sophomore and seriously into photography.
And her best friend has been missing for two years.
The very first chapter involves her best friend calling her younger brother to arrange a plain clothes police officer to be in a particular location in two days. To arrest the rapist who has held her for two years.
The story then follows Tessa as she tries to reconnect with her damaged friend, while dealing with her very first boyfriend and a project that requires she step totally outside her normal boundaries.
While this is a fairly difficult premise to accept, unlike so many books about missing and returned teens, it feels a little more realistic to me barring a few things that since I have lived an incredibly sheltered life I'm really in no place to judge them. I loved the book from start to finish. Typical teen drama in parts. I love where Elle tries to bring down the queen bee cheerleader. I don't think she would have returned to quasi-normalcy as speedily as she did but since she's not the lead and I'm not a shrink I ignored that part.
It's difficult to describe the reasons why I loved this book without coming across incredibly callous. The easiest is to just say it's a wonderfully well written tale with horrific crimes entangled in the plot, and since they're secondary you can sort of ignore them to an extent. A good writer can let you enjoy a book without rubbing your face in the tragedies involved in the characters lives, the desperate need of Tessa to have her best friend back and the need Elle feels to put her captivity behind her just grab you. There is no way this book could have focused on Elle and been half as good. The best parts are the portions where Tess tries to assimilate the new Elle, a damaged wild child, with her sweet but crazy best bud Noelle. The way Elle's self destructive behavior pulls Tess in made me want to smack her at times, at the same time Tess takes far too much responsibility for what her friend is going through, and at the same time her obsessive loyalty is touching.
Tessa's romance with the new boy in school adds a light hearted semi-normallicy to her rather twisted life.
All in all I found this book to be a delightful read even with the obvious tragedy of decimated innocence through out.