Facing the shimmering waters of Donner Lake in Northern California, Jessica Taylor’s new novel “Who We Were in the Dark” (Penguin Random House, 368 pp., ★★1/2 of four, available now) explores familiar territory angst fiction for young adults – and he has the philosophical one-liners to prove it.
Taylor uses Donner Lake and its surroundings to frame the story of narrator Nora Sharpe and her brother Wesley. The book immerses the reader in the present with an aura of mystery as Nora reflects on memories of the past and an event that shaped her time at the lake: the disappearance of her friend Grace Lombardi.
The story proceeds to cut between the past and the present. In the past, the reader begins to piece together Nora and Wesley’s home life. Their mother is sick, unpaid bills are piling up, expenses are mounting, and their estranged father – Kevin, as Nora ostensibly calls him – wants to reconnect after years of Nora and Wesley thinking he was dead.
‘Acts of Violet’: A famous magician disappears in the act. Can those who remain solve the mystery?
Jennifer Weiner’s new book ‘The Summer Place’ is so good it’ll be on every beach this summer
His idea of consolidating years of distance and lies? Trips to Lac Donner during school holidays.
This is where Nora and Wesley meet Grace and her friend Rand, and the foursome become inseparable. However, unlike traditional friendships based on vulnerability and truth, the four knowingly tell each other lies to hide the skeletons in their closets.
Grace becomes the leader of the group and the main adventurer, searching for the next big thing and pushing Nora, Wesley and Rand beyond their comfort zones until their fantasies can’t outrun reality. The book burns slowly, taking its time to get to the heart of the matter: who is Grace and where did she go?
The non-chronological timeline cleverly bolsters the mystery that Taylor spends over 300 pages building as the reader piece together clues to the nature of Grace’s disappearance, but is akin to the feel of a ping pong ball hitting a ping pong ball. back and forth, leaving the reader confused as to what part of the story they are in now.
Jennifer Gray Gets Her ‘Out of the Corner’ Storyline Back, Opens Up About Clark Gregg’s Divorce: ‘I Never Loved Him More’
“Flying Solo” flies away: Linda Holmes’ new romance novel is a feel-good summer getaway
The plot of the book remains in Nora’s memories of the past, where we take the time to empathize with the characters and dwell on the rich creations of life they would like to have. By comparison, the current chapters feel static until a rush of action hits the book’s final act.
The book is perfect for those who remember the melancholy feelings John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” gave them and who want to further explore the kind of enigmatic young women who disappear, only for the remaining characters to consider their guilt over to disappearance. .
While “Who We Were in the Dark” doesn’t present a new take on teenage mystery, it does reflect on the avenues of escape we use to leave behind our darkest realities. Taylor’s characters know there’s no beauty in truth, but perhaps that’s when we have to deal with it the most.