Sorry to be negative in the start, but I think the fundamental problem with the book is that synopsis and the cover don’t really match the story. I went into it thinking it was a thriller, and it is barely a mystery novel. Don’t get me wrong – what it ended up being is a good enough story, but my expectations going into the book were very different from the book I actually read. Still, that is really not why I gave it only 3 stars. There is a lot going on in the book, and it feels like it is trying to tell three different stories, and while it does a passable job at blending them together, it does feel more like one of the stories dominated (and guess what, it wasn’t the mystery one) and made the other two sort of irrelevant.
Now, the mystery first, because that is what this book had promised – there is a good amount of ‘thriller’ like writing for sure, especially a scene where Spencer and Mallory both stay overnight in the library and hear weird sounds. It delivers on the spooky and mysterious very well, but the build up leads to a disappointing ending of sorts. The other story was of Spencer himself having a coming of age moment (well, a month-long moment) with what he wants for his future and how he feels like if he deviates from the plan his adoptive parents had for him, he would be letting them down somehow, or squandering the privilege he got. This story, too, felt lackluster in development, somehow wrapping it up in the end.
What really took center-stage in the book, for me, was Mallory’s story – she leaves home after giving an ultimatum to her mother to leave her controlling husband (Mallory’s step-father is one of those creepy kindly types) but has to hide out in the library while trying to figure out her own future. Her story development shapes out of her fear, and it drives most of her actions – she is unwilling to accept help from authorities because she is scared she will be returned back to the home she finds dangerous, she is wary of Spencer’s efforts to help her, initially, because her stepdad also had seemed charming at first. Her figuring out a path for herself going forward was the central story-line of the book, and it made even the mystery feel like a minor plot arc. It is well-written, and except for the way it ended, it was an engaging plot that carried the book. Even the romance felt half-baked. And that is why I gave this 3 stars – the other side elements of the book felt underdeveloped compared to this plotline.
So, bottom-line, if you go into this book for the mystery, you will probably be disappointed. As a coming of age book, it is written well enough.