Monday, June 6, 2011

The Twisted Thread

Bacon, Charlotte. The Twisted Thread. New York: Voice - Hyperion, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

When Madeline returns from her moning jog, she can tell something's wrong from across the green. Not only are her students awake at what they consider the unholy hour of 7am, but they're all on the lawn with police surrounding the dorm. Claire Harkness is dead. And that's not all.
"No, no, that's not possible. Sally, did Claire just have a baby?" Madeline said sharply, still holding the girl but lifting her chin so she could stare into the narrow face. "Where's the baby?" Madeline found that she was almost shaking Sally's bony shoulders. ...
     Sally shook her had and could not speak. "I don't know," she finally whispered. "He's gone..."

The Twisted Thread follows English teacher intern Madeline, art teacher Fred, detective Matt, and facilities handyman Jim as they each play their parts trying to unravel how the unthinkable has happened at the prestigious Armitage Academy. They start with Claire's death and the disappearance of her baby and work their way backwards through Claire's actions and motives to figure out what really happened. Following four different narrators was a bit challenging in the beginning, while I was still getting to know all of them. Though the point of view changes, the story never retraces its steps so that we see the same even through different eyes. Usually, I really appreciate that! This time, however, I do have to admit to some flipping back and forth trying to figure out why I was suddenly dumped into the head of someone I'd just met. Fred and Matt both interact with Madeline a lot, so the changing point of view, sometimes in the same scene (but different chapters!), seemed unneccesarily confusing in a few places, especially without the help of backing up the action a little bit so that the reader can get their bearings.

Of all our narrators, Madeline is the star of the show. She struggles with a lot of guilt because she didn't notice anything wrong (or preggers) with Claire, her student and resident in her dorm. She is also struggling to figure out what to do with her life. It is the emotional ringer of riding out the aftermath of Claire's death with the remaining students on campus that finally allows/makes her kind of grow up and make Real Life Decisions. The absence of any teen narrators in this high school boarding school book makes the adult hand-wringing a little more pronounced. It's not something that bothered me at all. It never veered into preachy or overly dramatic; it was all very believable. Still, I think it'll be a turn-off to some teen readers who may construe it as just more "kids these days" criticism. So while there is nothing in this book that would make me hesitate giving it to a high schooler to read, it's definitely not the book for a reader of primarily young adult literature who is looking for a good boarding school mystery.

That said, it is dead high school senior Claire, or at least her presence/memory, that brings depth to the stories in ways that I can't share without spoiling it for you. Just trust me when I say that the mystery goes far beyond how beautiful, intelligent, priviedged, and ultimately more complicated than anyone dared guess Claire Harkness died.

The Twisted Thread will be out and available for purchase June 14th!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

*Quotes and page numbers are from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.

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