Chloe is a Year Ten scholarship student at a posh girl’s school. She often feels out of place and overwhelmed by the power and privilege of her classmates. Year Ten is an awkward and challenging time for everyone, but when 16-year-old Yin Mitchell is abducted the impact resonates across the whole school and the community. Suspects among the community are being questioned, rumours spread like wildfire and information is being carefully guarded. As tension and uncertainty rise, friendships crack, new alliances are forged, and everyday school-life seems inconsequential.
Every passing day brings more dread as the police widen the search for clues and talk of serial offenders. The students know that the more time that passes lessens the likelihood of Yin’s return. No-one feels safe, parents are fearful for their daughters and every stranger is seen as a likely offender. Chloe forms an uneasy alliance with Natalia, the Queen of Year Ten and a young lady with attitude to burn. Natalia harbours a guilty secret that threatens to consume her. Art becomes a means of expression for both girls, culminating in a controversial entry to the annual school art competition which pushes both girls to the edge.
Leanne Hall is an award-winning author who also works as a YA specialist in an independent bookshop. Her examination of friendship, vulnerability, strength, and privilege will raise many questions and prompt self-reflection for many readers. None of us are immune to the trials of discovering the harsh realities of society, and many of the conflicting emotions of the characters will be familiar. How we navigate the challenges of fear and grief and who we choose to navigate them with at different stages of our lives is explored.
Two very different characters tell the story, but this is not the story of the crime. Natalia and Chloe don’t team up to solve the mystery. Their friendship feels like an uneasy truce. There are no neat endings. It perfectly captures what it feels like to be a girl at this stage of life, enjoying some adult freedoms but feeling vulnerable, pushing for independence but finding interdependence is a better choice.
This book will challenge the expectations of a “crime novel” because it is so much more than a mystery story. This is sophisticated YA writing for readers 14+.