I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. This book has a lot to it that really made me enjoy it. The characters had quite a bit of depth and complexity, but at the same time were authentic and accessible to readers of young adult fiction. The plot events and story development were engaging, suspenseful and romantic. The book deals with some very serious issues: depression, suicide, self-cutting, violence and teen pregnancy.
Mercy Porter has spent the past three years consumed by grief. Her older sister, Faith, drowned in the river under mysterious circumstances. Her mother, unable to cope with this devastating loss, took her own life months after the accident. Mercy has dealt with all of this by withdrawing from her younger sister, Prudence, and her minister-father. She spends most of her time sleeping or visiting the cemetery.
All of this changes when the Lovell Traveling Sideshow arrives in town to perform at the annual River Festival. This performance troupe, made up of traveling gypsies, were last in St. Mary's, West Virginia the night Faith died. Mercy sees an opportunity to start asking questions to find out what happened and who was responsible for her sister's death.
Upon the arrival of the Lovells, Mercy finds herself drawn into a relationship with Cross, one of the performers. As this romance develops, Mercy becomes more engaged in her family and community. But not everyone is happy that Mercy is coming out of her shell and asking questions. The more she digs into the mystery of her sister's drowning, the more danger starts to close in on her.
Julie Anne Lindsey has created characters that young adult fiction readers will be able to relate to. Mercy is deep into depression after her sister's death and has even resorted to cutting herself to relieve the pain of guilt and despair.
As Mercy begins to reconnect with her family and friends, I really enjoyed her rekindled relationship with her sister. Lindsey's writing style made me feel as though I were sitting in the bedroom with them talking about clothes, make-up, and boys. Readers that have close relationships with sisters will be able to recognize themselves in this story.
The romance between Mercy and Cross will please readers that like steamy scenes. While it was kind of fun to read, it moves the book out of the appropriate range for my classroom. And I would note that parents and educators should be aware that Mercy and Cross engage in intimate relations without any protection or contraception. This may be something you would want to discuss, along with many of the other mature themes, with young readers.
Paperback, 269 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by Lyrical Press, Inc