The One I Left Behind
by Jennifer McMahon
Read: Jan. 1 – 4, 2013
Challenge: 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge
Yearly count: 1
Source: ARC from publisher via Shelf Awareness
Blurb: The summer of 1985 changed Reggie’s life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school’s outcasts – Charlie, the local detective’s son, and Tara, a goth kid who harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera – an ex-model with many “boyfriends” and a thirst for gin – the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.
Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn’t trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.
Review: Oh. My. Goodness.
Okay, so a few months ago I first read the description of this book. 1985? The year I was born. Character named Tara? Totally my name 🙂 Serial Killer? Sign me up! I signed up for a copy from the publisher through Shelf Awareness Pro (Oh, how I love you!) and was ecstatic when I found a copy in my mailbox shortly thereafter.
And then it sat. And sat. And sat.
For whatever reason, I kept putting off picking it up. Until January 1st. I wanted a fresh slate. And thought that since this book would be releasing in early January it would be absolutely perfect timing for me to read it.
Thank goodness I did! I was hooked from page one. I would sit down and read 50 pages before I knew where the time had gone. I couldn’t get Garrett to sleep long enough during the day for me to satisfy my reading need, lol.
Let me just say that Ms. McMahon really captured the whole “He was always so nice; I never would have imagined he could have done something like that” cliché of serial killers with Neptune. It wasn’t until about 50 pages to go that I actually started to think that it could be who it ended up being – I was convinced it was someone else the entire book!
The story was told in alternating time periods – Reggie as a 13-year-old when Neptune began killing women in her hometown and Reggie as a 39-year-old dealing with trust issues and reeling from the news that her mother, missing and presumed dead for the past 25 years, has just turned back up alive but quickly dying of cancer. I really came to enjoy seeing exactly how Reggie was shaped by her dysfunctional family and what it ended up doing to her as an adult.
I have to say that these were some of the best characters I’ve gotten to know in a long time. The whole cast was quite enjoyable. Other than Reggie, I think Tara was my favorite – she was so real. And Ms. McMahon was really able to capture the pain of adolescence. Sometimes authors struggle to really connect the adolescent characters and the readers – but I really felt for all the young characters. And it was also fun to see who they ended up becoming in the alternating storyline of present-day. It’s really amazing how a few traumatic events in adolescence can affect who you become as an adult.
I have seen some of Ms. McMahon’s other books before and have always been intrigued by the descriptions. I have a feeling that I will be reading more by her in the future.
Overall I really can’t say enough about this book. I enjoyed it that much. I know it’s only my first finished book of the year, but I have a pretty good feeling that it will make my Top 10 list at the end of 2013. It’s definitely a book that I’m going to recommend to everyone I talk to. And it’s one I won’t be forgetting very soon, either.