Meredith Oliver is a 13-year-old rather non-descript girl. The only moment, when she was put on the spotlight was when her older brother Evan, a baseball prodigy, was severely injured and his nascent career came to an end. One afternoon after school, she passes by a deli when suddenly a gunned man enters and robs the market. Meredith finds herself on the floor together with Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl of her school. Lisa is full of fear and trembling all the time. Then the robber orders Lisa to accompany him. When Meredith wakes up again in hospital, she cannot recall the last minutes and give the police important information to find Lisa. The next weeks become hard, on the one hand, her parents put Meredith into a kind of golden cage, on the other hand, Meredith is adopted by the popular girls due to her fascinating experience and since one place in the group was free now. But Lisa remains missing. And does Meredith really not recall anything of that afternoon?
The novel was advertised as hair-rising and thrilling. This I could not really find in it. Of course, there is some suspense, you want to find out what happened in the deli and how much Meredith remembers. She fantasises about what might happen to Lisa in the robber’s house, at times, I wondered if this really was all fantasy or if she might actually know more than she did. But the crime case was not really in the focus of the novel. Actually, I was wondering while reading, what the novel is essentially about. We have Meredith’s case, her way of coping with the experience, the behaviour of not only her parents but also her classmates after the event. However, a lot of time was spent on narrating her brother’s story, his way of coping with his injury and finding his way back into life. It is not as if I did not like that part, but since the title suggests that Lisa Bellow should somehow be the centre of the narration, I was highly astonished to read that much about the boy.
Susan Perabo did a great job in the way he has her characters develop after the robbery. The parents as well as the girl and Lisa’s mother have different ways of handling it, all different, but all authentic, plausible and differentiated. This is definitely the strongest aspect of the novel. Especially Meredith’s thoughts and fantasies were an interesting insight in her mind and particularly the strange way guilt might work on you. To me, the book is not a thrilling crime story, but a close examination how a family has to come to terms with tragic events.