After enduring years of emotional and physical abuse from his mother’s boyfriends, 16-year-old Tom Cavanagh seems to have found something like stability in Ralph’s (14 Ways to Die) spine-chilling thriller. Mom’s new boyfriend Jay is funny and kind, and the house they’ve just moved into is her dream home, if littered with holes that need patching. Tom, who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, seems to be the only party concerned about the holes drilled into the outside of his bedroom door—and the cryptic messages he finds underneath his room’s wallpaper and carved into his closet’s walls. When he learns that Amy Pearce, the new student at Priority Road High School, and her family were the home’s previous tenants, Tom thinks they’re the key to solving the mystery. But when Amy’s girl-next-door facade begins to crumble, Tom realizes that the Pearces might not be the victims he thought they were. Intense chapters from Amy’s perspective provide glimpses into her past and offer reprieve from Tom’s sometimes repetitive pursuit of the truth. Nevertheless, Tom’s matter-of-fact voice (“Home is where the hate is”) and Ralph’s short, brisk chapters make for a compact, satisfying thriller. All characters are assumed white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Claire Wilson, RCW. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Regret and intrigue blend perfectly..." — Kirkus
"Teens who love psychological mysteries will enjoy this" — School Library Journal
"A compact, satisfying thriller" — Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—After breaking free of domestic abuse, Tom's mother remarries and Tom gains a new stepfather who genuinely cares for him. His new stepsister, Nia, ignores everyone except her little brother, Aaron, who lives with their mother. Tom's OCD compulsions lead him to discover that the doors in their bedrooms have holes, implying that there were locks on the outside. Worry about what this means intensifies when he discovers that Amy, a new student in his school, used to live in his house. Amy is friendly but reserved and her family seems strained, leading Tom to believe that she (as he was) might be a victim of abuse. After Tom and his friend Zak dig deeper, his new family is violently threatened and the past becomes terrifyingly close. Short chapters with action-packed tight sentences heighten the tension and create a page-turner of a book set in Britain. Amy's experiences are told only after readers hear Tom's perspective of her, causing the tension to mount as readers must decide where her loyalty lies. Perseverance and determination create a friendship that allows both teens to acknowledge that sometimes trusting is the only way to move out of fear and into a brighter new future. Race of the characters is not stated. VERDICT Teens who love psychological mysteries will enjoy this. Recommend this book to reluctant readers as well; they will quickly be drawn into the psychological suspense.—Connie Williams
A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.
Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.
A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)