Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky, Phoebe Strole, Kristen Sieh
Published by Razorbill
Published on 27 July 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Girls & Women, Thriller, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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From rising star Jessica Goodman, author of They Wish They Were Us, comes a new fast-paced thriller about two sisters vying for the top spot on their cross-country team--the only way out of their stifling small town. But their dreams are suddenly thrown into peril when a new girl threatens to take away everything they've worked for... until she disappears.
Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won't let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.
The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers' lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can't help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie's been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong--she's someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she'd never be: distracted.
With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won't let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.
I loved this book. It had everything I ever wanted beautifully wrapped up in a stand-alone story.
In this book, years ago a bunch of minority girls went missing and were found murdered, and the cops didn’t really care very much until a white girl also went missing. It was also questionable whether the person they eventually decided had done the murdering was actually guilty. So when new girl – and competition to the Steckler sister, Stella and Ellie, in cross country running – Mila goes missing, people wonder if the murderer is back.
This is not a mystery, it’s a thriller. Stella and Ellie, who take turns telling the story from their points of view, do not spend the majority of the plot investigating Mila’s disappearance and looking for clues, piecing together a story until they figure out the truth. This book is much more about the atmosphere, the feeling, and the school ground politics behind Mila’s disappearance. Mila doesn’t even go missing until almost half way through. It’s a slow, beautiful build up, as we watch Mila rotate into the lives of stubborn, prickly Stella, who never lets her walls down, and laid-back, chill Ellie, who is looking for a new best friend after her old one, and her boyfriend, both betray her.
I also found this to be quite a feminist book. In the story, the mayor decides to restrict teen girl movements, meaning the girls can’t go running by themselves. There is one rule for the boys and one rule for the girls, and it’s really unfair. I also found Stella’s story to be really interesting, as she struggles with anger and has a history of violence – but is it violence against her or against others?
I also really liked seeing the story from Ellie’s point of view. Ellie had such a different voice to Stella (and different narrators in the audiobook, which made it easy to track who was narrating), and she was dealing with such a different situation. Their interactions together were really interesting: Stella was so dominating and self-centred, expecting Ellie to sacrifice everything for her, and Ellie was reaching that stage of her life where she was ready to fight back. There’s only so long your older sibling can be an asshole before you fight back, just saying. I also really liked how they would fight and then make up so quickly, a wonderful sister bond that nothing could break. Stella was also queer, which was a nice touch.
I did think Ellie and Stella were being a bit unfair to one of the minor characters, a girl called Raven who was bullied in a frenemies high school way by another girl. Ellie and Stella were mean to her, too, and she was already dealing with her own stuff: her sister was the white girl who had gone missing some years before, although later returned safe. It looked like Raven was trying to be nice and I was hoping Ellie would actually become friends with her after Bethany’s moved away.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Although it wasn’t a ‘mystery’ as in our leads played detectives, I still found the mystery very engaging until the very end, I lover the intense and not always loving relationship between the sisters, the narrators did a great job, and I would really love to read another novel by Jessica Goodman.