CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2015) - Commended
Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser searches for her mother, who has gone missing shortly after the two moved to London, England, to escape Edie’s abusive father.
Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school — she’s in a different country.
Sydney promises her that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn’t come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them.
Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she’ll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.
3.5 stars – rounded
3.5 stars – rounded
I’ve been back and forth while writing this review, wondering just what was prodding me to be uneasy with the story. Mary Jennifer Payne writes beautifully: her descriptions and emotional impact is clear to see, and the character of Edie is instantly sympathetic whether an adult or teen is reading. The underlying reasons for Edie’s story are all too familiar if one reads the headlines, and running away from a bad situation does often seem the only choice for child or parent desperate to keep them safe.
Edie and her mother have fled Canada for London: Edie’s father is horridly abusive, and Sydney is desperate to keep her daughter safe and allow her other options away from the abuse. They’ve been running for years – yet her father keeps finding them and the abuse starts again. In London, Sydney believes that Edie can have that fresh start, and life will start to look more positive. But, when she doesn’t return home from her overnight job, Edie is convinced her father has returned – and this sends her into a series of choices made in desperation….
Gripping and completely engaging, Payne has latched onto the emotional angles that will grab a reader and keep them moving forward. However, there isn’t a ton of introspection or development from Edie: she’s most obviously holding issues of anger from both the abuse and the fact she is thrust into new situations constantly. Her own psychological ills from the abuse and anger are barely touched upon, and her understandable yet somehow not, instant connection to Jermaine seem to contradict her own trust issues with people, men most specifically. We also have her encounters with Precious the Mean Girl, who is simply reflecting and acting out on her own anger and hopelessness at her own family situation.
But, Payne doesn’t attack these issues head on, she dances through them with small mentions. And that is what has me uneasy, I think. Teenagers are capable of dealing with the hard truths of life: it isn’t always pretty and no one has it easy. Learning that Precious was dealing with similar issues that caused her to regain her own power by bullying Edie MAY give teens a sense of understanding as to WHY people act as they do: it isn’t always just because they can. There were so many moments to expand and show with character and scene development that these are issues, not personality, and that issues can be faced, addressed and dealt with.
What emerges is a good and gripping story that, with a touch more character development and a few more head-on attacks of the issues could have been great, and not felt so rushed at the end. There are often no better ways to learn than fictional stories, don’t sell your audience short by not addressing the rough, tough and often distasteful moments that arise. Payne is most certainly an author to watch, and this story will appeal to teens and tweens for the character of Edie alone, I just wish there was a bit ‘more’ meat on the bone.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
2.5/3 Stars - Potential Not Fully Met
I would like to thank Dundurn & NetGalley for granting me a copy of this ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.
<blockquote>Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school she's in a different country.
Sydney promises her that that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn't come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them.
Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she'll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life."</blockquote>
Edie and her mom have been on the run from her father for years. Now, they've made their biggest move of all, leaving Canada for England in the hopes of shaking him loose. Tired of the constant running Edie is just trying to fit in at her new school, one she's hoping she can stay at for at least the entire school year. She's got the art of being the new girl down pat.
But Edie's world gets turned on its ear when her mom doesn't come home from her night job. Instead of asking any adults for help, since that would risk alerting her dad to their new location, assuming that he doesn't know it already, Edie makes a choice fated to both repel and attract a new friend. Lifting the fundraising money from her class is the only thing Edie can think to do, cause they hadn't been in London long enough for her to have any savings to use for food or her search for her mom. When the theft is discovered Edie lets Jermaine, the local bad boy, take the fall for her theft. And he knows it.
This is where things get interesting in this story, as we get to discover just who Edie is, and who Jermaine is. And neither one is who they seem to be to the rest of the world. In a strange twist Edie ends up confessing to Jermaine why she took the money, and he agrees to help her search for her missing mom if she promises to clear up the theft once they've located her mom. The search is certainly part of the story, but it was the emotional aspect of Edie's reaction that I found to be more compelling. Even in the midst of searching for her missing mom Edie manages to somehow go on living, though she might not think so at the time. Her resilience is pretty astonishing, as is the fact that she discovers an attraction to Jermaine. An attraction that appears to be reciprocated.
While the mystery of where her mom vanished to and why gets solved, once again that seems to take the back seat to Edie and her choices - at least for me. Edie matures almost overnight, making choices that many adults would struggle with, let alone a teenager whose mother is missing so soon after moving to a brand new country. Ms. Payne does a good job of sharing insights into Edie's thought process, while still moving the story forward at a decent clip. That she spent so much time focusing on the choices Edie makes, and the consequences of each choice, that is what made this book for me. She took it from a mild mystery into a really solid YA story, one with important messages. Those lessons aren't shoved down the reader's throat, but rather laid bare to be discovered and processed as part of the story, making them that much more palatable.