When a young Muslim high school student is accused of a crime she didn’t commit, her school counselor gets involved to clear her record in this ripped-from-the-headlines romantic thriller from the author of Vanished in the Night.
When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she’s a guidance counselor, she’s not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn’t commit, Lily’s high school becomes a powder keg.
Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she’s not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila’s arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run. But Lily didn’t expect to find such a tangled web…
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A mix of emotion, action, mystery and suspense that digs at the heart of all things “off” and bares
You have to admire an author that will take on a sensitive subject and do their best to portray a story while showing all sides, particularly of the moment as this book ultimately deals with prejudice and fear: fear of differences, fear of the unknown, and even fear of our own reactions to those issues. Eileen Carr has done all of that and more in this engaging tale suitable for teen through adult readers.
Starting with a courtroom scene where Jamila Khoury, a Muslim high school student is on trial for an auto accident in which a soldier, recently returned from Afghanistan is injured and in a coma. Emotions in town are running high, and people’s prejudices and fears are forefront in this story, even as Jamila is remaining silent.
At the high school that Jamila attended, students are on edge with discussions of the trial, Jamila’s guilt and the squaring off of us against them. Lily, a guidance counselor at the school isn’t able to square off the girl she knew with the events, and with the help of a local reporter she wants to find the truth. Add into this the ‘small town’ cloistering, the police investigation stopping with Jamila and going no further and a rampant case of over-zealous (think medieval crusade-like fervor) Christians who are also not surprisingly vehemently anti-Islamic and the story just twists further into delicate territory.
When Jamila’s parents enter the game, suing the department for harassing their daughter solely on her religious affiliation, there are no safe ‘spaces’. Everyone must be perceived to take a side, and as is common in the growing mob mentality, you are with us or against us is the overwhelming attitude, with the truth, real truth, coming a poor third or fourth.
Carr examines the various prejudices, attitudes and secrets that hide beneath the veneer of this small northern California town, and gives readers perspectives and insights: both into Lily’s search for the truth but our own hearts. Far from being a ‘this is bad because’ sort of message, we are able to see how small misunderstandings and larger secrets can keep hateful and invalid conclusions alive to spread further, spurring actions based in fear. Fear of the different, of discovery, of social ostracism, or even of being judged oneself, not to mention fear of failure, when living ‘up’ to an expectation, whether real or imagined, can cause some questionable choices in achieving that end.
While telling too much would spoil the story, there are characters, attitudes and approaches that stand out, whether for good or bad. Lily’s idealism which is stretched to the breaking point, Joe Sullivan, the reporter, and his rather ‘for the facts’ approach even as he tries to guide Lily through some distasteful truths, Daniel the quiet and shy classmate of Jamila who sees everything but chooses a different approach, even the guarded and almost offhanded police who seem to be convinced that investigation is unwarranted.
A mix of emotion, action, mystery and suspense that digs at the heart of all things “off” and bares them for readers. In some ways a ‘what would I do” in similar situations, we also see the reaction from all sides Followed with a sobering epilogue that should, if nothing else, encourage people to listen and learn from one another, Carr wraps up the story with a satisfying ending. What we never seem to realize is that these quick judgments are ‘innate’ – we are genetically programmed to seek out those who are “like” us, but understanding and not fearing those impulses are the first step in preventing more overt and heinous acts.
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.