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One of the most clever books I’ve read all year, and I don’t see author Gia Cribbs disappearing from the writing scene as a result, for an extremely long time (no WITSEC for her!). I chose this as my second book during a recent ‘readathon’ (I think I’d been subconsciously waiting for some excuse to be able to just lay there and read it without being bothered), and it really was the perfect choice for that.
The premise is entirely fresh, especially for a YA thriller, and I couldn’t wait to dig into this story about Sloane Sullivan (assumed new name and identity), who is just now starting at a brand new school in a small town in North Carolina. Sloane is almost 18 and this should be her last few months in the WITSEC (witness protection program), after spending just about 6 years under 19 assumed identities, before she can finally break free and go and live a ‘normal’ life and go to college. She lives with a Marshal under the witness protection program, Mark, who has pretended to be every sort of relative over the years to protect her while they have moved place to place on the run while in the WITSEC program: father, brother, uncle, and he is loyal to a fault, teaching her how to protect herself and how to remain anonymous.
Now that Sloane has found a new school, she is determined for it to be the last stop before freedom, but her usual plan to fade into the background so that no one notices her, goes awry almost as soon as she enters the building on the first day, when she realizes she has bumped into an old friend, the boy and best friend she dearly loved, the one she left behind many years ago. AND suddenly everyone wants to be her friend. But she can’t afford to start over this close to getting out of WITSEC, and keeps this from Mark, and hopes that Jason doesn’t recognize her.
So that’s the basic premise in my words. From there on out, and literally from the first page onwards, this book was nothing but engaging. Sloane still hasn’t pieced together everything that happened on the night that the crime that sent her and her family into witness protection, and her memories have been repressed for the longest time, so as they start to come out, she gradually realizes the danger of the memories of the past.
Losing her father and mother are integral pieces of her character; Mark has had to replace those figures in her life, and understanding the facets of Sloane’s personality and how they relate to the loss and detachment she’s had to endure as part of the program is quite heart-wrenching. All the time she is around her new friends and her long-lost best friend, it’s incredibly hard for her to assimilate those new people into new roles, and learn how to trust again, at the same time as hiding so much from them still. Author Gia Cribbs has done a fantastic job of writing these complexities of how Sloane would react in situations that would make her feel awkward, and actually how her past would give her the hallmarks of PTSD. Also, the way in which she relies on Mark is a very interesting relationship too. Cribbs has mastered all the depths of communication (particularly the young people in the book) and different relationships of her characters to make so much of this book work and it’s really remarkable.
Without going into the plot points, ‘Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan’ is flawless, as far as I could tell, in terms of story flow, and the flashbacks to the past, especially when revealing Sloane suddenly remembering pieces of the organized crime (murder) she witnessed, and they are seamlessly written in.
All the twists and turns that come in the novel kept me reading for more and more, right down to the way the other teenagers’ actions are unknowingly affecting Sloane’s grand plans and future. Plus the characters and the pop culture (cue the 80’s!) are so fun! And the penultimate twists at the end are just brilliant.
I’m so glad this book didn’t disappear into oblivion, and it didn’t just get seen by Gia’s daughters (as she mentions in her acknowledgements in the back); this, and every book that I hope Gia has up her sleeve, deserves to be read, and on bookcases everywhere. Especially mine.
PS. It’s totally worth entering preorder giveaways when you send in receipts for preorder incentives when you buy your book, because I won a prize pack for this one! It was awesome! (This is no way shaped my opinion of the book, by the way)
*You will all have to read the book and find out how those movies fit!