This book is on the Hounslow Teen Read long list for 2017.
I’m going to start by telling you all a little story. I met Anne Cassidy once; she came to an author talk at my school not long after I started working there and had not yet realised the wealth of books involved in YA fiction. This was about seven years ago and she was a very nice lady. She told me that she used to be an English teacher back in the day and wrote a series of books about teens who get killed in mysterious ways. She liked to imagine some of the horrible kids she taught as the ones who had a bad end….
She writes crime thrillers for teens I guess. If any of you have read the amazing Looking for JJ which is based on the real life events of a teenager called Mary Bell, who murdered her neighbours kids and then goes to prison, or Finding JJ about her release and life after then you will know that she writes really well, with some good twists and exciting characters. Sadly, i’m going to have to say that maybe this book has lost that a bit.
The book starts with Mandy, who is now 17. She is watching a notorious house getting demolished. Five years before, her two friends Petra and Tina go in to the house for a dare and completely disappear. Mandy hadn’t wanted to go, a decision that saved her life. The next day a man’s body found in the house, he has been murdered but the two girls are never seen again. Mandy blames herself for not telling the truth sooner and has been plagued with guilt ever since.
Mandy and Tina had been best friends for years but when Petra arrives on the scene she soon drives a wedge between them. Mandy is a little bit of a goody goody and Tina is drawn to the slightly more exciting Petra. As we explore the backgrounds of all the girls it is easy to see why. Petra’s dad is the local criminal and gets himself involved in some dodgy dealings, including going in to the house to deliver things to the old man who eventually winds up dead. Mandy is now in the sixth form and because of these events doesn’t really have any friends until she meets a boy who tries to find a way in.
The book is written from three POVs; Mandy, Petra and Tina but, as we get nearer to discovering the truth about what happened that night it switches to the two that survive. So it doesn’t take much to figure out which one doesn’t make it. The writing style is also a bit over simplistic and clunky. For example, how many teenage girls do you know called Petra? Also, she tries to tie in some modern themes, Petra’s dad is going out with a Polish woman who is really lovely but he is horrible to her; this eventually has some bearing on the ending but it didn’t sit comfortably with me. I liked the premise of the book but the execution didn’t really do it for me. Lovely lady though…
Further Reading : Looking for JJ and The Murder Notebooks series also by Anne Cassidy. For a more challenging read go for Slade House by David Mitchell.