Eleven years ago, six kindergartners 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 remembers the sixth victim, Max – the only one not to come back. Which leaves Max’s sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother – dead or alive – and isn’t buying into this whole memory loss story. But as details of their disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.

(Summary taken from the inside flap of The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Bloomsbury Publishing 2016)

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Ah, so many things to say about this book, let’s jump in.

The Leaving has a fascinating premise, which is why I picked it up, and I had high expectations for it. However, it disappointed me greatly. Here’s why:

-The characters. There were five teens who returned, but only two, Lucas and Scarlett, were narrators. I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of the other three teens, as they were pretty two-dimensional in their characterization. If you’re going to write five protagonists, then give them all a voice.

-Building on that two-dimensional characterization, most of the characters were written that way, other than the third narrator, Avery, who was one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever come across. We got very little into the minds of those left behind, other than Avery, who was too concerned with her boy troubles to offer much insight.

-The romances. Scarlett and Lucas have some sort of past, which is never properly explained, but Scarlett also has some sort of past with Adam, one of the other teens. Then you have Avery, who pines for Lucas, but has a boyfriend, Sam, oh, and she had some kind of thing with Lucas’s brother, Ryan. It’s typical teen drama, but is not wrapped up well at all.

-The ending. With such a high stakes mystery, it is easy to trip up and fail to reach a satisfying conclusion. It’s not that I wanted a happier ending, it’s that I wanted a better explanation for why these six kids went missing. The ending felt rushed compared to the length of the novel.

Altogether, it isn’t a terrible book. In fact, I liked it until the end, but it had the potential to be so much better. In short, a disappointment.

 

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