The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.
Welcome to my stop along Bloomsbury’s Boldly Bookish blog tour, hosted by The Irish Banana Review! It’s week three of the tour, which means it’s all about Tara Altebrando’s The Leaving. This book is crazy and weird and intriguing and I’m excited to review it today! As always, my main points are bolded. :)
1. I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries involving missing persons and amnesia, and this book treats the topic differently than I’ve ever experienced. Six small children disappear from school one day, and five of them return eleven years later with no memories. At all. They remember snippets of life before “the leaving”, and they have small flashes of what happened while they were gone. For the most part, though, they have forgotten the last eleven years of their lives. What’s crazy is that they are very well educated and are able to transition into their proper grade level with ease after their return. They seem to have been well taken care of. So what happened? And where were they? And why can’t they answer these questions themselves? I was intrigued immediately.
2. The mystery is super unique because all five of these teens (and some family members of theirs) are working with the police and hypnotists and therapists and specialists to try to piece together the past. But nothing is really working. The flashes of memories that I mentioned before continually occur, and these teens are getting more and more confused because they don’t make sense. But this confusion causes them to vigorously search for answers, putting themselves in danger in the process. They don’t know who to trust, and as more information surfaces the reader is left possibly more clueless than the characters. It’s quite a page turner of a book!
3. The story is told in alternating perspectives by three narrators: two of the teens and the sister of the boy who never made it home. This is a really tricky thing to do, and Altebrando did a great job of giving each narrator a recognizable voice. For example, one of the narrators is a little bit crazier… or eccentric? Or maybe she is just not handling things well and is spiraling out of control. Some of her words and sentences made weird designs or were written backwards, and I thought that formatting was a cool touch and gave us more insight into how she was feeling. There were other unique formatting details, but I can tell from reading other early reviews that they did not transfer properly to my eARC.
4. I do wish all five of the returned teens got chapters to tell their thoughts. I would have liked to understand them better. Perhaps that would’ve made things too hard to keep track of, but what’s the point of having four more kids if they don’t contribute to the solving of the mystery?
5. There is some romance that I wish hadn’t been there. I was more focused on learning the why’s and how’s and the romance took me out of that mindset.
6. The suspense was palpable. Practically every chapter ended on a cliffhanger that was not resolved or even addressed until that specific narrator had their turn to talk again. I was just SO curious that I read this book in record time, flying from narrator to narrator and wanting more details and more answers. Altebrando knows what it takes to keep a reader up reading instead of sleeping.
7. The ending was a little anticlimactic and some of the answers went in a direction that almost completely switched the genre of the story. It was a surprise for sure, but I guess I hoped the story would end with more of a bang.
8. I had it all wrong. I thought I knew what was going on, but I was wrong. And that’s a good thing.
Despite my few qualms, I’ve come away from this story with an overall favorable opinion of it. I can’t give many specifics of why I liked it because I’ll end up spoiling things,which is why this review is vague and lukewarm. I was throughly entertained, and Altebrando pulled me out of a reading slump I didn’t know I was in! The unique storyline had me intrigued to the very end, and I enjoyed the ride. I haven’t read a book this fast in years. I’d definitely recommend it to people who are looking for a spin on the normal YA contemporary mysteries. There are twists and turns and details you won’t see coming!
Tara Altebrando is the author of numerous books for young adult and middle-grade readers. Her upcoming book, THE LEAVING (Bloomsbury), is a YA thriller that received a starred PW review and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Her other YA novels include ROOMIES, coauthored with Sara Zarr; Dreamland Social Club (A Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens), The Best Night of (Your) Pathetic Life, What Happens Here, and The Pursuit of Happiness.
Tara is a Harvard graduate who lives in Queens, NY, with her husband and children.
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6/6: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review
6/7: The Young Folks – Q&A
6/8: Swoony Boys Podcast – Character Interview
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6/13: Beauty and the Bookshelf – Guest Post
6/14: YA Bibliophile – Review
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6/16: The Cover Contessa – Q&A
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Week 3 – THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando
6/20: Once Upon A Twilight – Guest Post
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6/23: Novel Ink – Q&A
6/24: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10