The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Title: The Leaving
Author: Tara Altebrando
June 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Young adult mystery
How I got the book: I bought it


Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back–with no idea of where they’ve been.

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.

My Review:

This was sort of an impulse buy. If you know me, I love a good suspense story. The cover was what originally caught my eye. I read the summary on the back and I thought I’d give it a try. Then I thumbed through the pages, saw the fancy writing style on the inside, and decided that I definitely had to give it a try.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing. They went to school on the first day and the busy never took them home. The own searched high and low, but no traces of them were found. Eleven years later, five return home not remembering where they had been, what happened, or for how long they were gone. Still, they remember basic skills they learned throughout the years, such as driving a car. One even knowing how to load a gun. Everyone is shaken up by their return and when they ask about Max, the sixth child, the other five have no idea who they’re talking about. Now the question is, are they lying?

This novel is written in the third person limited, but we follow three POV characters. Lucas and Scarlett, two of the stolen children, and Avery, Max’s little sister. Between the three of them, they start piecing together what might have happened and where Max could be.

It was an interesting tale of amnesia and a race against the clock as they try to find Max. The ending was certainly something I didn’t see coming. I even had a prediction and was completely wrong. It was certainly a cool twist on the “missing persons” plotline. However, with all the twists and turns and with two out of the three main POV characters, there wasn’t much room to try to figure things out for myself.

The person who was behind “The Leaving” was an interesting twist. I never would have guessed that person. It made sense, but the way they figured it out was out of left field. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t say any more on it, but I felt as though them figuring it out was kind of a cop-out.

Six went missing: Lucas, Scarlett, Max, Kristen, Sarah, and Adam. Max never came home and we follow Lucas and Scarlett. They talk to Kristen, Sarah, and Adam every once in a while, but for the most part, we don’t really see them.

Lucas and Scarlett were great POV characters. They had a lot of depth even though they couldn’t remember eleven years of their lives. Still, they slowly pieced everything together and it was fun to go through the motions with them. Plus, I liked both characters.

Then there’s Avery. I’m not entirely sure her story was needed. As Max’s little sister, she wanted answers. Great concept, great plot, but as the story went on she seemed to be more focused on wanting a relationship with Lucas and being jealous of Scarlett. I also didn’t think her story was complete. She breaks up with her boyfriend and then the chapter ends. Then we never see Sam again and never talk about that he ever existed again. She didn’t even care, she just wanted Lucas.

Avery had a little depth because while she wanted to find Max, a part of her wanted to find him dead. She thought it would be weird if he came home, her whole life would change. It’s sad and I totally understand her feelings on that. Still, since they were so young, we didn’t know anything about Max. And, as stated, Avery was more focused on her love life so I couldn’t sympathize her confliction about finding Max.

This was a thick book being at 421 pages. Each chapter alternated between the three POVs and the book was broken up into parts labeling the days. The book takes place in just 15 days total. The chapters were short and quick reads, especially with the way it was written.

Avery’s chapters were written as a typical novel. Scarlett’s were written almost poetically, the words sometimes literally flying off the page or making shapes. Lucas’s chapters were written as a regular novel, but a lot of his thoughts and memories were highlighted in black and written in white ink.

Despite its length, it made it for a quick and easy read. It was interesting and fun. And, even though the chapters were labeled with the POV character, I really didn’t need that confirmation. I was able to tell each voice just by reading and that was great.

This was a great read. I definitely think it would have been better without Avery’s story, or maybe less of her story. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the third POV was from Kristen. As the story goes on, we learn she and Scarlett have a history, but, since I didn’t know anything about Kristen I didn’t really care about it. And I would have liked to.

If you’re looking for a quick, fancy-written mystery, consider checking out this book. I think I’ll pick up Altebrando’s next book.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando gets…
4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“People aren’t shaped by conscious memories so much as they are by their overall life experience and bonds.” –Tara Altebrando, The Leaving

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