Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff; Penguin, 256 pages ($17.99) Ages 12 and up.
This resonant, powerful novel of children and parents, of betrayal and love, of isolation and connection is a finalist for the National Book Award and comes from the acclaimed author of “How I Live Now,” “Just in Case,” “What I Was” and “There Is No Dog.” Mila, the teenage daughter of a translator and a violinist, has a rare gift for “reading” a room, for sensing unexpressed emotions and the secrets hidden behind appearances. She and her father had planned a trip from their London home to the U.S. to visit her father’s childhood friend, but word comes that the friend has disappeared. The trip turns out to be both journey and puzzle. Mila senses a deep unhappiness in the home Matthew shared with his wife Suzanne, his dog Honey and his baby son Gabriel. As she and her father travel north to the cabin where Matthew might be staying, Mila tries to unravel the mystery of why he might have disappeared, and what guilt and anger might linger over the death of Matthew and Suzanne’s first child in a car accident several years before. Rosoff has a gift for creating appealing, realistic characters and riveting, emotional reads, and this novel of a family dealing with the aftermath of terrible loss may be her best one yet.
– Jean Westmoore
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton; Minotaur (320 pages, $25.99)
Carla Norton’s enthralling “The Edge of Normal,” about a young woman rebuilding her life after being held by a kidnapper for years offers more than a ripped-from-the-headlines pastiche.
This fiction debut delivers an emotional story of a woman fighting to regain her sense of self, to reach, at least, an edge of normal without falling. Reeve LeClaire, who was kidnaped when she was 12 and held for four years, doesn’t want people to see her only as a victim but as a survivor.
Now 22 and living on her own in San Francisco, Reeve forces herself to deal with traumatic stress that will always linger. She maintains a precise routine and sessions with a compassionate therapist. Reeve also has become a self-educated expert on longtime captivity. She is willing to put her emotional well-being at risk when her therapist asks her help in treating Tilly Cavanaugh, a 13-year-old found a year after being kidnapping. Reeve may be able to help Tilly because of their shared experiences. While Reeve’s captor was caught, Tilly’s kidnapper is still a threat.
Norton expertly guides “The Edge of Normal” through myriad surprises and suspense-laden twists. But the foundation of “The Edge of Normal” is a heartfelt view of victims who, even after they have been rescued, become subjects to be exploited by psychologists and lawyers on news shows.
In 1988, Norton co-wrote the true-crime book “Perfect Victim” about Colleen Stan, a young hitchhiker who was picked up in California by a couple who kept her captive as a sex slave for seven years.
“The Edge of Normal” continues Norton’s compassionate view of victims.
– Oline H. Cogdill, Orlando Sun Sentinel