Hattie Hoffman was looking forward to her senior year at Pine Valley HS. Finally, the end is in sight & she can almost touch her dream of moving to New York & taking Broadway by storm. Seven months later that dream is dead & so is Hattie.
Pine Valley is a typical rural farming community. Those who live there work hard, know their neighbours & have long memories. There’s not a lot to offer young people with big ideas. And when Hattie’s mutilated body is found in an abandoned barn, everyone feels the loss.
Sheriff Del Goodman is gutted by the news. He’s known Hattie since close friends Bud & Mona Hoffman brought her home from the hospital & promises he’ll find her killer. But Del has no idea just how many people have something to hide, not least of whom is Hattie.
The story opens with the discovery of her body in April 2008 then goes back to the previous fall. We meet the players & follow events that put several of them on paths that will tragically collide in the spring. In alternate chapters set in the present, Del pulls out all the stops & is unnerved by what he discovers as the investigation progresses.
It’s one of those books where the less you know going in, the better. There are some bombshells ahead & you really want them to drop in order for a maximum WTH experience. The author provides a slow drip of clues that influence your thinking & put you at risk of developing whiplash as you swing from one suspect to the next.
It’s well written & the reader is invested in the outcome from the first page. But be prepared for an emotional ride. Ms. Mejia has a suitcase of skills & excels at creating characters who are complex & believable. Hattie in particular is a heartbreaking example of what it’s like to be 17. You’ll find yourself remembering what it felt like to be bullet-proof with endless possibilities ahead of you. It’s a time when the passion of first love & the belief you can be anything are so vivid, not yet diluted by the practicalities of real life. She’s smart, funny & infuriating. Some of her actions will make you laugh, others will make you want to shake some sense into her. In other words, a typical teenager.
On a deeper level, it’s a cautionary tale for all ages about the consequences of our actions. Not just for ourselves, but the ripple effect on people in our lives. As Hattie’s English teacher says “what could happen to any of us?……if we pursue our darkest desires? What do we lose of ourselves when we cross that line? What does it cost those around us?”
Tension continues to build as the 2 time lines converge & Del uncovers the truth. And it’s only then you realize just how many others also had dreams that died with Hattie. I dare you to finish this & leave the characters behind on the page.