Written by Tara Altebrando
Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Published June 1st 2016
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back, with no idea of where they've been.It's been eleven years since six five year old children disappeared from their first day of Kindergarten without a trace, an event locals have called The Leaving. leaving behind broken families and grieving parents, the now sixteen year old teens find themselves only minutes from where they were taken, all wearing the same outfit and all with individual maps in their pocket to ensure they reach home safely. But not all the children have come home.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are... Fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back.
Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother, dead or alive, and isn't buying this whole memory loss story.
Avery's brother Max who was also abducted that day is missing, while the others have returned. Avery remembers clutching her teddy bear during the press conference and growing up in a shadow of her brother that may never come home.
The five returned teens each hold one memory from their time in captivity, but all have been educated, in good health and have been taken care of physically. Where have they been and why can't they remember? But as shock turns to skepticism within the community, the teens begun to piece together moments from the last eleven years of their absence and left to decipher what is real and what they've been lead to believe.
The Leaving was a bizarre blend of contemporary and intrigue that will leave readers wondering what is real and what we're manipulated to believe. Told from several points of view, Lucas and Scarlett who were both taken at five years of age and from the perspective of Avery, who's brother Max was taken and has yet to return with the other five teens. Scarlett is returning to a single mother, a former alcoholic who believes her daughter was abducted by aliens and has immersed herself in a support group of other returnees. Lucas returns to a tragic accident and now being questioned by the police. Based on how they gravitate towards one another, Lucas and Scarlett believe they may have been once in love, but the memory has been altered upon their return, along with Kristen, Sarah and Adam. It's Avery who is waiting for her brother Max to come home, the sixth child stolen and now seemingly missing. Avery doesn't believe that the returned group can't remember where they've been or who Max is, and is determined to conduct her own investigation fueled by jealousy and anger.
The core storyline of the children being taken and returned eleven years later was brilliant. I loved the intrigue as the storyline unraveled as to why the children were taken and where they've been. What did disappoint me was Avery's character. She fluctuated from being jealous of not only the attention the group were receiving, but also of Scarlett and her relationship with Lucas. She's one of the most narcissistic characters I've come across in young adult and I found unable to tolerate her attitude. She could have been forgiven, as her brother is still missing while the others have returned with an unlikely story but in the same breath, she's disappointed that a body recovered was not that of her brother.
Each point of view is vivid and uniquely told using the page formatting to represent each character of Scarlett and Lucas. With memory loss comes confusion and voids within their thoughts and is formatted to give the reader a sense of their inner turmoil. Scarlett's thoughts are scattered with dashes reaching across paragraphs and pages, often in the middle of her thoughts or sentences while Lucas's memories are heard in sounds, such as a gun being loaded and formatted as large black boxed quotes.
It was the final few chapters that left me bewildered. Avery determined to lure Lucas into a romantic relationship even though her brother is still missing was awkward and uncomfortable. It didn't feel genuine and that she pined away for Lucas only because she wanted what she believed Scarlett held. The disappearance of Kristen, Sarah and Adam from the storyline, we see brief updates of their lives only to fade into obscurity and of course the conclusion. It felt almost unplanned and I didn't fully grasp what was happening without having to reread due to it being so utterly random.
Overall, I really did enjoy it despite it's issues. But the ending left me unsatisfied and Avery's character, who also let the storyline down with her constant narcissistic attitude and indulgent personality.