December 06, 2017

The Hanging Girl

Written by Eileen Cook
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
308 pp.
Ages 13+
October 2017

Skye Thorn is a tarot card reader, helping her peers with their questions about love, school and more.  But, though she cultivates an image of having psychic powers, Skye is just an astute observer of human nature and a sneak at private files and conversations.  Her mother might purport to have the gift but Skye knows she herself does not.

Still Skye is a teen who has always wanted a certain life and had a willingness to make it happen. 
Destiny is like a boulder.  Bulky and hard to move.  It's easier to leave it alone than to try to change it.  But that never kept anyone from trying.  Trust me: I'm a professional. (pg. 1)
She hates her name, Candi, the one she was given by her 15-year-old mother, and has managed to get her friends and school to use her middle name, Skye.  She had woven a story about her father, whom she has never known, being a military hero.  That story ended badly, though, and had her labelled a liar and headed for counselling.  Now, she’s telling her best friend Drew that she’s saving her money so that they’ll be able to get an apartment in New York City when Drew heads to art school next year.  But she hasn’t. 

When she is approached to use her psychic flair in a scheme to kidnap popular and wealthy Paige Bonnet, Skye convinces herself that it would be alright.  Paige would not be hurt and Skye would get some of the ransom money.  Her role would be negligible: all she had to do was convince the police that she was having visions of Paige’s disappearance and to help direct their investigation.  Ah, the best laid plans…

Like the tarot card called the Hanged Man, which suggests someone at the crossroads, Skye is balancing who she really is with what she wants people to see and what they actually do see in her.  From her mother to Drew and classmates and then the police and others, Skye's self is hanging, perhaps precariously as she makes choices.  She truly is The Hanging Girl. But the mystery that is Skye extends beyond her, embedding readers in a young adult thriller with a myriad of twists and reversals and red herrings.  Never, never can the reader tell what will happen next or whom to believe.  The tagline "Trust no one. Deceive everyone" is especially apt.  The plot is intricate and multilayered and, even when Skye figures things out in a climactic graduation ceremony setting, I was never convinced I knew the truth. That just tells you how convincing Eileen Cook's writing is.  It is tight but complex, and she never lets the plot lag or the storyline get caught on ineffectual plot twists.

Eileen Cook, whose books Unraveling Isobel (Simon Pulse, 2012), The Almost Truth (Simon Pulse, 2012), Remember (Simon Pulse, 2015), and With Malice (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) have been reviewed on CanLit for LittleCanadians, always has some mystery amidst the teen drama but she is particularly adroit at relationship dramas.  Her characterizations and dialogue between characters and inside Skye's head are especially compelling in The Hanging Girl.  Except for several chapters conveyed as Paige's written account of her ordeal, most of Eileen Cook’s text is in the first-person narrative of the young tarot card reader trying to assess her situation prior to Paige's disappearance and then while the teen's family and police investigate.  She's gotten herself involved in something desperate and is in far too deep to get out cleanly.  Still, though she lies and manipulates, it's surprising how sympathetic Skye is as a character.  She always believed that she was destined for a nothing life, so the readers will cheer for the girl who tries to see herself beyond a life at Burger Barn.  As such, the ending will floor you.

See beyond the mess that is Skye and the situation in which she finds herself and discover a thrilling plot of truths and lies and shadows in The Hanging Girl. It's a little dark but more angsty than criminal and definitely an accurate take on the desperate measures people will take to achieve the lives they feel are warranted.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Eileen Cook never leys us down and this one sounds captivating.