Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Book Description:

Published: June 12, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review –

Georgina was an upwardly mobile executive in a highly successful company when she is arrested for helping her teenage boyfriend dispose of the body of her best friend and fellow cheerleader, whom he had killed, fourteen years before.She made a plea deal and only got five years.

Prison is very hard for her and the author goes into detail about her experiences while incarcerated. She receives letters in blue envelopes over the years but after having read the first does not read the others. Of course, we are to think they are from the SweetBay Strangler, her ex-boyfriend, but are they really?

Once out, she goes to live with her father in her childhood home and try to start a new life but people in the neighborhood don’t want her there and vandalize her home and car with red spray paint, because they believe she helped to kill her friend. Her father is very supportive, as is Kaiser Brody, also a best friend from her high school years and now a police detective. He believes Geo, Georgina’s nickname, know where Calvin is and tries to get her to tell him every chance he gets. Fourteen years ago he had a crush on Geo and still loves her but believes it’s a lost cause.

The author  does not flinch from visceral descriptions of murder and rape,( a very important part of the story) it is a much deeper story about a high school girl who fell head over heels with a killer and how it destroyed her life.

Jar of Hearts is an unpredictable and riveting thriller that keeps the pages turning with characters who are stimulating and a storyline that keeps you totally on the edge of your seat.

Five stars!

 

 

 

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The American Girl by Kate Horsley

Book Description:

Published: August 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident and the dark secrets a small town is hiding. . .

On a quiet summer morning seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch, barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

Quinn’s appearance creates a stir, especially since her host family, the Blavettes, has mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl has anything to do with the missing family.

A Boston reporter named Molly Swift travels to St. Roch, prepared to do anything to learn the truth and score the ultimate scoop. After Quinn is arrested and a trial by media ensues, she finds an unlikely ally in the young journalist. Molly unravels the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American girl makes a compelling suspect.

Is Quinn truly an innocent abroad, or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder?

Review –

Quinn is a seventeen year-old American exchange student spending time in a small French town. One fateful morning, she comes walking out of the woods scared, bloody, and unable to remember what led her there. To top it off, her host family has mysteriously disappeared. Is Quinn responsible, or does it have something to do with the small town’s sinister secrets? Desperate for answers and a shocking story, the media descends upon the town. Among the reporters is American, Molly Swift, who will do anything to get to the bottom of it, including getting way too involved and telling lie after lie.

The story is creepy, mysterious, and incredibly fast paced. The viewpoints alternated between Quinn and Molly, and were told in several formats: blog posts from Quinn leading up to the incident, video diaries from Quinn AFTER the incident, and Molly’s viewpoint in the present. I enjoyed seeing what happened before and what happened after and trying to unravel the mystery and the secrets of the town. I was shocked again and again.

To say that this story is intriguing would be an understatement. I was sucked in from the get-go and felt an unrelenting need to know what was happening.  I found myself constantly second guessing what I thought was going on and was continually puzzled. The end is one you won’t see coming!

I’d highly recommend this one to fans of mysteries and thrillers — I gave this five stars!

Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

Book Description:

Published: June 20, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots. I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago. If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact… I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow. Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl. And now there is.

Review –

Ten years after escaping from a kidnapper who held her prisoner for three years, a young woman must face the reality that he’s taken another little girl.

Thirteen years ago, Ella Santos existed. Now that girl is gone, replaced by Lainey Moreno, an bitter woman who subsists on cigarettes and whatever pills she can find, trying desperately to forget the years she spent locked in a basement with the man who raped her. Until she sees a missing poster for ten-year-old Olivia Shaw, privileged where Lainey was poor, loved where Lainey was neglected. Improbably, the detective on the case is Sean Ortiz, the traffic cop who found Lainey the day she got away, the only one who doesn’t think Lainey is broken beyond repair.

Lainey believes she is worthless but Sean sees her potential  and this happens over and over again as do the allegedly shocking but actually humdrum revelations about Lainey’s past and her connections to Olivia. It’s way overdone and becomes annoying as does the predictability of the plot, but there are a couple of twists that make every thing worth it and that’s why I rated it five stars!

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The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Book Description:

Published: January 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A gripping blend of psychological suspense and historical true crime, this riveting novel—inspired by a sensational real-life murder from the 1800s—by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault delivers a heart-stopping mystery linking two young mothers from different centuries.

Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.

1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.

During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.

Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.

Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.

Review –

“In 2014, high school history teacher and new mom Abby Bernacki worries over “odd” happenings in her 19th-century house, such as her baby daughter’s mysterious bruise. After consulting with a past owner, Abby obtains a historic resident’s journal and befriends a local archivist, who introduces her to a trove of puzzling artifacts. In 1878, another new mother who lived in the house, Frances Barnett, was ordered to a month’s “rest” in bed to cure her nervous condition. Once she’s out of bed, Frances fakes enthusiasm for domestic tasks while concealing from her husband her obsession with the trial of a gruesome murderer. The historic parts of the novel draw on the tale of a real-life 1879 murder and trial, even including several real New York Times articles that covered the story. Readers will squirm at the courtroom scenes involving a removed and preserved face and experiments with arsenic and donated stomachs. In another bit of historical accuracy, Frances toils in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital in Massachusetts, which at the time turned a profit on the work of its residents. The novel consists of three threads: Abby’s 2014 perspective, where she reads notes Frances kept in a cooking journal in 1878; Frances’ mental-hospital monologue to her visiting brother in 1885; and the 1998 death of a college student in Abby’s dorm. The college thread is minimally developed and seems incidental, until it ties in as the foundation of an emotionally satisfying ending. Abby’s and Frances’ mirrored stories are the stars of the show; despite their very different circumstances, both women are humbled by the pressures of new motherhood before they find empowerment in the hunt for justice.” Kirkus Reviews

I love this type of book where the past and present collide. Great read! Five stars!!!!!

The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

Book Description:

Published: March 5, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Nearly one hundred years ago, a desperate young woman crawled ashore on a desolate arctic island, carrying a terrible secret and a mysterious, emerald-encrusted cross. A century later, acts of man, nature, and history converge on that same forbidding shore with a power sufficient to shatter civilization as we know it.

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, Slater is offered a job no one else wants—to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon: The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn’t come back to life.

Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, loaded down with high-tech tools, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank’s team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits—and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. By the time Frank discovers that his mission has been compromised—crashed by a gang of reckless treasure hunters—he will be in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, Frank must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.

The Romanov Cross is at once an alternate take on one of history’s most profound mysteries, a love story as unlikely as it is inevitable, and a thriller of heart-stopping, supernatural suspense. With his signature blend of fascinating history and fantastic imagination, critically acclaimed author Robert Masello has once again crafted a terrifying story of past events coming back to haunt the present day . . . and of dark deeds aching to be unearthed.

Review –

“A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic. . . . Masello weaves several disparate genres—medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story—into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. . . . Tense, taut and impossible to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews 

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Fantastic book !  I definitely be reading more by this author.

One Kick (Kick Lannigan #1) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published: August 12, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…

Review –

Chelsea Cain’s new book, One Kick, is the  start of another series that intermingles victimization and romance. But this one is capable of reaching a much broader audience because it is far less gruesome than the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series. True, it’s about pedophilia and child pornography. But the details are not described, except as vague memories that haunt the title character, Kick Lannigan.

When we first meet Kick, she’s only ten years old  and seems to be named Beth. She also seems to be living with her mother and father. But an F.B.I. raid quickly interrupts their quiet domesticity, and it is revealed that “Beth” is a kidnapping victim. Her real name was something else, but her captors have locked her in a basement room and forced her to star in porn films. When Kick (the toughest adult name she can give herself) is twenty-one, and the book’s main action unfolds, she’s told that “the Beth Movies are still the most downloaded child pornography on the Internet.”

Kick bears the burden of having followed the exact instructions of her fake father, Mel, when the F.B.I. raided the house. She went to the computer and nuked Mel’s database, which could have been vitally important to agents trying to crack down on child pornographers and kidnappers.

“All you had to do was nothing,” she is told by John Bishop, an alluringly tough, secretive, so-called former weapons dealer who turns up in Kick’s living room one day and becomes the series’s romantic male lead, partly because he has absolutely no romantic interest in Kick. He just commandeers her because he works for a very rich somebody who wants the kidnappers caught. And Kick has dedicated her life to the same cause.

Kick is a fighter, albeit a wounded one, so she’s drawn to the worst kinds of crises she can face. And her nearest and dearest are in constant jeopardy because of the kind of slime in which she’s chosen to reimmerse herself.

One of the book’s toughest scenes takes Kick to prison, where Mel lies mortally ill and perhaps ready for a confession about a ring of perverts much more savage than he is. Despite everything, he seems really to have loved this girl, and her reactions are no less complicated.

In Heartsick, Gretchen asked: “Do you know what’s more intimate than sex? Violence.” And that book went on to prove her point. One Kick has a similar way of mixing brutality and eroticism, though it is very, very careful not to exploit the pedophilia angle. But Kick becomes curious about Bishop’s effect on women: They flirt with him tirelessly, he pays little attention, and yet Kick finds them with him early in the morning.

The ending was a surprise for me and their was a cliffhanger at the VERY end, leaving room for a sequel,BUT, I looked ahead and found that the second book, Kick Back, was not published . Here’s why:

“Please Note: this novel has no planned publish date.

As per Chelsea’s blog: “Simon and Schuster published ONE KICK. Then, about the time I was supposed to turn in KICK BACK (and after S&S had posted the cover of KICK BACK and started taking pre-orders), my editor left S&S to go to Putnam. And I went with her. These things happen. S&S will not be publishing KICK BACK. Ever. I hope that Putnam will publish KICK BACK one day.”

Evidentially Putnam has decided NOT to published Kick Back or any other books in the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series because it has been YEARS so Ms. Cain has gone on to write YA Graphic Novels that have been published by Marvel but I am not a graphic novel fan.

It is really a shame too because this was a fantastic book and I gave it five stars !!!!!!

 

 

Let Me Go(Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell #6) by Chelsea Cain

Book Description:

Published:

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Detective Archie Sheridan is about to receive a birthday present from the last person he ever wants to see again: Gretchen Lowell.

The investigation into Jack Reynolds’s drug enterprise is heating up and has Archie heading off to attend a masked Halloween party on Jack Reynolds’s island, where Susan is a reluctant guest. But the next morning one of the guests is found murdered, and Archie quickly realizes that nothing is what it seems. Only one thing is clear: Gretchen is back, and she’s been closer than anyone thinks. On Halloween Eve, with time running out, Archie will have to risk everything, and choose wisely whom to trust, if he and his loved ones are going to live through the night.

Review –

Say what you will about mobster Jack Reynolds: The man knows how to throw a pre-Halloween party. The food and drink are endless; the attendees include 500 masked guests; security has been outsourced to a team of military contractors.

Not only is Archie reluctantly in attendance, but the host, unaware that his son Leo is secretly working undercover for the DEA, virtually kidnaps Leo’s girlfriend, reporter Susan Ward, and has her driven to his private island for the party and coiffed and costumed by a helpful stripper when she arrives.

The morning after the festivities, Archie wakes up in the mud with a blond hair in his mouth, and an uninvited guest, coed Lisa Watson, is found slashed to death. Both disruptions strongly suggest the presence of Gretchen among the masked revelers, even though Archie assures Susan that “it’s been fourteen months since she killed recreationally.” And Gretchen remains offstage for most of this installment—allowing Archie free rein to celebrate his birthday in handcuffs as his downstairs neighbor Rachel entertains him with a lap dance—until Archie’s lover/nemesis/torturer turns up at the eleventh hour to end some lives, save others and complain, “Do I have to do everything myself?” The murder and its solution take a back seat to the continuing saga of Archie’s affair with the sociopath.

At the end of the book Gretchen is still on the loose and Archie and Susan are in the hospital, Susan from her wounds and injuries inflicted by Lisa Watson’s true killer  and Archie from a near fatal gun shot wound to the stomach from a security man. They have a tender moment and then end up in Archie’s bed because Susan can’t keep her eyes open. (They didn’t hook-up but this is better than nothing – I still have high hopes for them)

I can’t believe Chelsea Cain stopped writing “The Beauty Killer” series and started “The Kick Lannigan” series. I desperately need more Archie Sheridan!!!

Five stars!

 

Beartown ( Bjornstad #1) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: April 25, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Review –

This novel concerns a Swedish youth league hockey team and its  place in a declining town. “Hockey is just a silly little game,” he writes. “We burn and bleed and cry, fully aware that the most the sport can give us, in the very best scenario, is incomprehensibly meager and worthless: just a few isolated moments of transcendence. …But what the hell else is life made of?”

Beartown quickly turns dark as the author exposes the one-track hearts and minds of some of Beartown’s residents. The isolated community in the novel is in Sweden, but “Beartown” is a universal story of homophobia, sexism and politics that could take place anywhere.

“Small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world,” Backman writes, and, as readers soon learn, covering up a heinous crime is not up for debate if the town is going to make economic and social advances. It’s why Backman’s descriptions of screeching hockey parents who yell at coaches and other parents during games — we’ve all seen them — seem almost comical set against the ugly group mentality that takes over after a teen is raped and the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s star player is accused of the crime.

Current fiction may have no more courageous young female character than Maya, who faces hate and threats after she comes forward about the rape. Backman writes a gritty, heart-stopping account of the sexual assault after which the novel then pivots into even more ominous territory as the town turns on her and her family.

Beartown is not just about a sexual assault; it’s also about Beartown families closing ranks and perpetuating falsehoods to protect themselves and the hockey team. It’s also about the all-encompassing culture of youth sports — the physical, mental and emotional commitment demanded of the players (not necessarily a bad thing) and the way that team sponsors, coaches and fans treat players like products rather than human beings.

So, although the book initially seems to be about the sport of hockey in a very small Swedish town, it is about sooo much more than that.

Five stars and I highly recommend it.

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Book Description:

Published: January 31, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Review –

FIVE STARS !!!!!!

Just finished listening to this book and my heart is pounding so hard I feel like it’s going to come through my chest.

The author’s story is told from two perspectives, neither of which we are sure is reliable. There’s Adele, the beautiful, fragile wife of psychiatrist David. She loves her husband – “I will never fall out of love with him. I won’t give that up. I can’t” – and hopes their fresh start in London will mend both the cracks in their marriage and a past about which we get only hints. Then there’s Louise, a single mother who only discovers that the man she meets and kisses in a bar, David, is going to be her new boss when he’s given a tour of her workplace, along with his wife.

Louise is easier to warm to: friendly, kind, hideously embarrassed by her actions but still drawn to David. But she has her own secrets – what are the origins of the night terrors that send her wandering through her home? And why is she getting to know both David and Adele without explaining what she’s doing to both parties? “I don’t want it to stop. That’s the honest, unpleasant truth. I want to have my cake and eat it.” She’s not as straightforward as she seems.

Adele, meanwhile, is more intriguing with every chapter, as her past is slowly revealed, and glimpses of the truth at the heart of her marriage are given (at one point, David is described, brilliantly, as “a walking Agatha fucking Christie plot”). “The past is as ephemeral as the future – it’s all perspective and smoke and mirrors. You can’t pin it down, can you?… The truth is different to different people,” muses Adele.

“Questions, questions, questions,” ponders Louise. “It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.”

When the first of the author’s  twists is revealed, it is fantastically creepy, if not entirely unexpected. The second twist turns the creepy factor up to eleven and is a total wrong.. #WTFthatending indeed – the sort that makes you go back to the beginning to check if it all pans out. And it does.

FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!

You HAVE to put this book on your TBR list.

 

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Book Description:

Published: October 3, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Review –

I just finished listening to Without Merit by Colleen Hoover and had tears of joy in my eyes. I had also laughed out loud  at parts of the book and normally I abhor comedy or humor of any kind in books, movies, etc., but every member of the Voss family (the main focus of the book) are so dysfunctional that the humor somehow fit.

Merit Voss lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety.(We initially think she is recovering from cancer) No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it’s a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he’s living in their house.

Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connection to the family makes Merit even more convinced she’s living in a madhouse.(He is the half-brother of her step-mother) So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She’s conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches  around the house for her to decipher. She’s simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can’t sit through dinner without starting a fight; she’s been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit’s quirks for what they really are—cries for help.(They believe she is suffering from depression) And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. The author  does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression, and Merit’s aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection.

Merit is quirky, complex, and frustrating but  will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what’s normal.

Five stars!

Side Note – Sagan is swoon worthy and has been added to my list of Book Boyfriends.