Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: "Last Seen Leaving" by Caleb Roehrig

Flynn returns home one night to find the police at his house. His mind races as to why they could be there—did they find the small amount of pot he had hidden in his desk? But he is utterly unprepared for what the police detectives tell him, that his girlfriend January is missing. The thing is, Flynn hasn't seen her in almost a week, and the last time he did see her, she broke up with him. And she's been ignoring his texts and calls since then.

January had been unhappy since her mother's new husband, a wealthy politician running for the Senate, moved her to a private school where she felt alienated from all of the other rich students. And although Flynn and January's relationship had its challenges, he cannot figure out why she would have disappeared or what could have happened to her, and their closest friends don't understand it either. But as Flynn digs a little deeper, he finds that the stories January was telling others don't match up with reality. He knows something must have happened to her, and he's determined to find out the truth.

But as Flynn tries to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, especially as disturbing evidence surfaces, there is another truth he must face as well—the truth about himself. That may be harder and potentially even more painful than figuring out what happened to January.

Last Seen Leaving is really two books in one. It's both a mystery, as Flynn and others try to figure out the truth behind January's disappearance, and it's also a book about self-acceptance, and finding the strength to embrace your true self. I think the book succeeds more on the latter than the former, and in fact, I think I might have enjoyed it a little more if that was all it focused on. Flynn was a really interesting character, and I liked his interactions with his peers, and his memories of his relationship with January.

It's not that the mystery part was bad; I just felt like it was a little formulaic, with stereotypical villains and the predictable (at least to me) red herrings to throw you off the real trail. Everything was wrapped up (somewhat) a little too seamlessly for me, and I kept remembering that Flynn was actually just a high school sophomore as he was acting like the brave detective all of a sudden.

While the book is a little uneven, at its heart it's an enjoyable and moving story, one which I can identify with very strongly in places. (The self-acceptance piece, not the disappearing girlfriend one.) Caleb Roehrig is a talented writer and I would have loved more time with Flynn, so I look forward to seeing what's next in Roehrig's career.

NetGalley, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and Feiwel & Friends provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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