I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Since She Went Away by David Bell
Published by Penguin on June 21st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Crime
Format: Electronic ARC
Source: First to Read
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Jenna Barton and her best friend Celia had plans to meet at a local park at midnight, but Jenna was delayed by an incident at home. When she arrives fifteen minutes late, Celia is nowhere to be found. Three months later, Celia is still missing. The only clue is a single diamond earring found at the park, inspiring the media to nickname Celia the “Diamond Mom.” While Jenna is struggling with immense guilt over her best friend’s disappearance, her fifteen-year-old son Jared is in the throes of first love with Tabitha, the mysterious new girl in town. Tabitha lives under unusually strict rules and is reluctant to discuss her family life. Tabitha abruptly disappears and Jared is heartbroken. Where is Celia? Is she alive or dead? Where is Tabitha and why is her father so overprotective?
She wanted something to end, something to conclude. And nothing seemed to be. Doors kept opening, leading to more long hallways and doors. She didn’t know where she was in all of it.
The story alternates between Jenna’s and Jared’s perspectives. Their storylines eventually become connected. One of my favorite parts of the book was the fickleness of the media. “The media giveth and the media taketh away.” Jenna becomes the target of a Nancy Grace type after she makes an important reporter angry. Jenna has been a regular presence in the media surrounding the case, but she tries to protect her son from the media circus. While Jenna is dealing with everything that comes with being close to tragedy, she is also dealing with the everyday struggles of being a single mom to a teenage boy. She tries to figure out how to communicate with her son without pushing him away and she frequently fails. Jared is an average teenager who just wants to be left alone. He is fixated on his new girlfriend.
We are all so vulnerable, she realized. We all dance on the knife’s edge. One push, and we are over. Even someone like Celia. The wrong place at the wrong time and you become a statistic, one of the many missing, their faces fading into the past with every day that went by.
The opening was really strong! Jenna is on the scene at a local barn where bones have been found and they are potentially Celia’s remains. The tension in that scene is palpable, but it dropped off substantially after Chapter 3. Overall, not much happened. Jenna drinks a little too much, spends time on sleuthing message boards, and reconnects with her missing best friend’s husband. Celia’s husband has a standoffish disposition and seems to be hiding something. Jared’s parts are more of a YA love story. Jared is extremely protective of Tabitha and creeps around the town trying to figure out her situation.
“We’re all kind of living in a swirl. It’s like one of those snow globes you have at Christmas. Except this is real, and it’s been shaken up and a bunch of bad stuff keeps blowing past our faces.”
I prefer suspense novels led by journalists or the police. I tend to get aggravated by civilians repeatedly involving themselves in cases and putting themselves in unnecessary danger. When Jenna and her son aren’t at home, they are both are constantly running off to question or confront suspicious people without informing anyone. Jenna is a hands-off parent. She gives Jared instructions, but she shrugs it off when he ignores them. She has an I-admire-his-spirit attitude about it all. Her passiveness made it difficult for me to be concerned about Jared when he repeatedly gets himself in dangerous situations. While I did care about the mother/son relationship, I didn’t care about their relationships with the outside characters. Jenna has a good friend/co-worker who basically just serves as a sounding board for Jenna. Tabitha barely speaks and her relationship with Jared is 99% lust, so I didn’t care about their intense connection and I wasn’t overly invested in her fate. We don’t get to know Celia and she sounds awful from what we do know, so I didn’t care much about her fate either. The ending is really abrupt. We find out what happened to Celia and Tabitha and then it just ends, no wind-down.
Jenna placed her head in her hands. She wished she could remain in that position long enough–not looking, not seeing–that the problems around her would be resolved in some favorable and benevolent manner. But she knew they wouldn’t be. She wasn’t a little kid who could play hide-and-seek until somebody else–somebody older and more capable–shouted the all-clear.
It was her life. The swirl around her belonged to her.
Even when I feel ‘meh’ about a suspense novel, I usually still enjoy them while I reading them. Since She Went Away wasn’t super memorable, but it was an entertaining way to spend a few hours. I would read another David Bell book on a lazy afternoon.
People drove or walked by places where unspeakable and awful events happened all the time. A spot where someone dropped dead of a heart attack. A place where one lover told another he or she was leaving. Those spots weren’t marked. Nobody knew. Life went on.