Sunday, May 20, 2018

Book Review: "Leave No Trace" by Mindy Mejia

Ten years ago Josiah Blackthorn took his nine-year-old son Lucas camping in the Boundary Waters, an area of northern Minnesota full of forests and ice-cold lakes. One day it appeared their campsite was ravaged by bears or other creatures, and the two were never heard from again. Once media interest died down, the Blackthorns were all but forgotten.

Until a night 10 years later, when now-19-year-old Lucas Blackthorn was apprehended trying to rob an outfitter store. He became aggressive and violent, and was uncommunicative, so he was sent to the local psychiatric hospital for observation. Both the doctors and law enforcement want to know what happened to Lucas' father, but he refuses to talk—to everyone except Maya Stark, the new, young assistant speech therapist, who seems to engender reactions from the once-lost no-longer-a-boy.

While at first her interactions with Lucas are mainly keeping him from hurting her and others, Maya begins to build what she belies is a genuine connection with him. She can't explain why he feels like he can trust only her, and she can't quite determine where she crossed the line from acting in a professional capacity to wanting him to be able to find his father, without having to go through law enforcement. She knows he doesn't need speech therapy; what he needs is a protector, an ally, and despite warnings from her supervisor and her father, she's determined to be that ally.

The thing is, Maya has issues of her own. Her mother abandoned their family when she was a teenager, and she's spent a number of years blaming herself, as if she wasn't enough or right for her mother. And that's not the only secret Maya is hiding.

"What lies beneath us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Will Maya do the right thing, if she can figure out what that is? Will her single-minded determination to help Lucas put her in danger? Will helping him get her the answers she has been seeking to her own questions, or will her decisions end in disaster?

In Leave No Trace, Mindy Mejia has given us a taut, compelling exploration of the pull of family and the need to be understood. I devoured this book, and while there were certain twists I expected, she threw in some surprises here and there. I found these characters fascinating and even a little unique, and while certainly I questioned Maya's judgment, I could see how past events in her life could lead her to make the choices she did.

Sure, not everything in this book is realistic. But you could see why the characters were compelled to do what they did, and how certain events unfolded. The coincidences and other things didn't bother me. I was hooked from start to finish.

I really enjoyed Mejia's last book, Everything You Want Me to Be (see my review), and with Leave No Trace she proves she's capable of something completely different. She's definitely an author I'll continue to watch with great anticipation, because no matter the genre, she's immensely talented!

NetGalley and Atria Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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