Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

leaving

“Rape was violence, not sex”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes:

“Nobody look at me, I’m a fucking mess! I’m going to sue Sarah Jessica Parker. Sex and the City did not prepare me to be a single woman in her thirties without designer heels and amazing sex!”

“Having a crappy job means having money that’s just mine, that I can spend on whatever I want to. I can’t tell you how good that feels”.

“Would everyone remember the times they’d said stuff like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘don’t be a fag’ in my presence, and suddenly be unable to look me in the eye anymore? Would they even care how it made me feel? Just how different would my life be if the truth got out?”

 

Flynn Doherty’s girlfriend January broke up with him and a few days later, the police are at his house. January hasn’t been seen since then. As the ex-boyfriend, Flynn is naturally the first person of interest for the police of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Of course, it can’t be January’s stepfather – future State Senator Jonathan Walker. Or any of the dumb rich kids at her new prestigious school. Or her pervy stepbrother. Or Kaz – January’s coworker and the guy who’s so much cooler and more handsome than Flynn. Well, that’s what the police thinks. Flynn is shocked by the news but is he really as innocent as he claims? Or are his own secrets something a lot more sinister than the reader initially believes?

As the search for January continues, the situation becomes much more puzzling for the townspeople. And for Flynn. Apparently, he was quite blind to his ex’s relationships with other people. People like her mother and stepfather. And her new classmates whom she made fun of relentlessly to him. And of course, with Kaz. Kaz turns out to be a whole new mystery entirely. Can Flynn handle juggling January’s disappearance, his own secrets and the changing relationships in his life? Or will the story end completely differently from what the reader is expecting?

 

“Last Seen Leaving” is a book that’s been described as “Gone Girl” for teens. Aside from my personal issues with that description (are teens not smart enough for “Gone Girl”?), it is to an extent true. Indeed, you get the “Gone Girl” vibes from the very first chapter – a missing girl, a narrator with a secret who lies to the police, and revelations that don’t exactly cast him in a favourable light. However, “Last Seen Leaving” is more than capable of standing on its own pages, without any comparisons to any bestsellers (no matter how much we all love Gillian Flynn, there are other mystery writers out there!).

Our narrator is Flynn Doherty, a 15-year-old skater who’s quite smart for his age. A little too smart in fact – at one point, he makes a reference to Torquemada. It is my understanding that in America, there is little focus on non-American history until the last two years of school, so I was quite puzzled by the idea that a sophomore would know who Torquemada was. And for a smart kid, Flynn makes a few very dumb decisions – breaking into an apartment of a potential murderer being one of them. However, he is struggling with some very difficult things during the course of the novel. Being fifteen is hard enough, and when you are in the closet with an ex-girlfriend who is probably dead and a strange crush on a dude whom you thought to be after that very ex-girlfriend – well, it’s no surprise that Flynn’s decision-making process is not in top shape. And January McConville is another story entirely. I do think that Flynn somewhat idealised her, which led to him being an unreliable narrator and such a viable suspect for the police and January’s acquiantances.

Tana French has said it best – “teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods”. I’ve already pointed out the novel’s similarities to “Gone Girl”, but I will tell you one thing – that is not a spoiler. The mysteries may have a few things in common, but I was still quite engaged in “Last Seen Leaving” because I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen until the very last page of the epilogue. I’ve suspected several things that came to be, but I was quite surprised (and devastated) by many other revelations.

“Last Seen Leaving” is a very strong debut and an interesting YA mystery. Caleb Roehrig is certainly one author to keep an eye out for! Plus his Instagram pictures are beautiful! My rating of “Last Seen Leaving” is 7/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Last Seen Leaving” if you liked:

“As I Descended” by Robin Talley

“The Secret Place” by Tana French

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

 

Have you read “Last Seen Leaving”? What are your favourite YA mysteries and thrillers? Drop me a line in the comments, I love them! 🙂

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

Book Review: Never Look Back by Sabine Bunnel

neverlookback

Requested by the author.

Jen Butler has a dark past, her life has been filled with pain and grief. It takes a deadly turn after Will, her boyfriend of one year disappears one night completely. Unable to believe that she’s been dumped, Jen, after exhausting all the other possibilities, goes to his New England hometown to find out more information. The tiny town is where she first notices that she’s being followed. The brief snippets of her boyfriend’s past lead her to Boston where she finds out that he is a lot more than an owner of a small computer company. The people on Jen’s tail are forced to follow her all the way ’round the country, getting closer and closer with each stop she makes. Will she ever learn what became of her boyfriend? And why can’t she stop having strangely prophetic nightmares almost every night?

 

The best way to define the genre of “Never Look Back” would be to call it an action-packed mystery. I’ve recently gone through a Gillian Flynn binge and needless to say, I was hungry for more thrillers of the sort. I almost forgot about this book referred to me by the author until I browsed through my Kindle in search of a suitable follow-up to GF, and spotted the haunting cover.

The debut novel starts with a terrifying nightmare in which our heroine gets brutally attacked. Dream sequences aren’t the best way to start books, but in this case, it was a pretty good way to get me interested. The pace, as I learnt right away, wasn’t going to be slow, but rather, most pages were packed with action sequences, such as car accidents, boat shootings, and dark alley encounters. I should say that I figured out the mystery about halfway through the book – I’ve seen too many crime shows to not be able to guess what was going on. The romantic parts were very cheesy, although I was grateful for the brevity of the love triangle arc between Jen, her boyfriend, and her college ex. The writing was pretty decent, for a debut novelist, but I had some issues with it that I’m going to elaborate on below. The author has clearly followed some writing tips that circulate on many writing portals of which I’m a member – this was evident in the way she mocked the cliches in the book while using them relentlessly. The main character, Jen, was rather well-rounded, with a backstory that tied well into the plot, but sometimes, she annoyed me by acting like one of those characters in horror movies who adopt the “There’s something scary down here, let’s go check it out” attitude when they see a creepy basement or something along those lines. Her love interests weren’t particularly swoonworthy, but this isn’t a romance novel. The story itself was engaging, gripping and fast-paced.

Now, onto my issues with the writing. This book is one of the few works I have come across that is self-published. And I’m going to go on a limb here and take a guess that the author didn’t have an editor. I myself am a writer and I do sometimes miss out on the stupidest things when I read my writing. However, it felt as though the author decided to stick with the spellchecker privided by Microsoft Word or something of the sort, and didn’t get the chance to have a read through before going ahead with publishing. The constant “your-you’re” errors, the apostrophes being in the wrong places, the sentences repeating themselves twice in the same paragraph, and other things have almost made me put the book down. If it weren’t for my thirst for good thrillers (and this one would have been pretty decent if the author had an editor), I would have done exactly that. What is significant in a good thriller, that some people tend to overlook, is punctuation, which was unfortunately off the mark many times during the action sequences in the book. The other thing that bugged me was that the author didn’t separate Jen’s dream sequences from the real-life action. I realise that it might have been an attempt to confuse the reader and make it harder for them to figure out what was true and what was the stuff of nightmares, but it didn’t work too well in this case.

So, to finish this off, my advice to the author is to either fire their editor right away or actually get one. It is clear that she is a very good writer, both character- and plot-wise, and I believe that her next book could potentially be excellent after some editing.

 

Favorite quotes

“The words on her computer were not only a source of income but a method of healing”

“Her writing had brought her comfort but it became her alternate reality, a place to hide her emotions, a place to bury them”

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Never Look Back” if you liked:

The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill

“Dark Places” or “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

“In The Woods” by Tana French

 

Dreamcast

Jen Butler – Amanda Seyfried

Will – James Marsden

Cameron – Josh Dallas