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The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

The Edge of Nowhere: Saratoga Woods
The Edge of Nowhere is the first in a new series, aimed at teen readers. The Saratoga Woods series is set on Whidbey Island, and promises to be entertaining supernatural crime/thriller. I hadn't heard of Whidbey Island before so was imagining an Isle of Wight type place, good for a family holiday (oh the childhood memories!) But, things are an awful lot weirder on Whidbey Island even than at Blackgang Chine. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our hero is Becca King, living under an assumed identity and in hiding from her seriously dodgy and dangerous stepfather. Her mum's a bit of a flake, couldn't tell a good guy from a wrong 'un, but throws herself into doing everything she can to protect Becca and herself once she realises just how bad her husband really is. She arranges for Becca to stay with an old friend of hers on Whidbey Island. It should be a relatively safe place, cut off as it is from the mainland and accessible only by ferry. Becca reaches the island safely but things are not going to be easy for her. Her guardian is nowhere to be seen, so Becca has to start deciding who to trust, and fast unless she wants to keep sleeping in the dog house. Literally.

So far, I've described a good but fairly normal set up, so here's the weird bit. Becca can hear your thoughts. She catches random snatches of what everyone around her is thinking. It's not always possible to tell who's thinking what and the noise can be unbearable. It can also prove invaluable in trying to figure out friend from foe. She's inherited this 'gift' from her grandmother, and has had it all her life. To make day-to-day living possible she has a little white noise device she can plug in, tuning out all the silent chitter chatter. Her ability to tune in and out is put to the test in her new home. After a suspicious accident in the woods leaves a boy, Derric, in a coma, Becca feels compelled to help him. She has a strong connection with Derric much to the disgust of Jenn, a majorly angry young woman who sees Becca as her rival and enemy. Becca needs to keep a low profile, protect her identity and figure out what happened out there in the woods.

The island is an odd place, there's a lot of tension and anger simmering away. Becca also encounters someone whose thoughts she cannot hear. I enjoyed the mystery and the suspense; some things are resolved in this book but many are left for subsequent stories. I liked Becca very much. She has to be so strong, basically making it on her own. She has all the worry of where her stepfather is, and where her mother has disappeared to as well as the more normal teenage problems of school, boys and friends. It's tough for her because she has had to change her appearance as part of her new identity, and doesn't feel at all comfortable with her new hair, make-up or clothes. She also labours under the delusion that she is too fat, which comes from her mother's incautious words to her throughout her childhood. This annoyed me a bit actually. I don't think it's made clear enough that her mum is so in the wrong for blithering on about what she should and shouldn't eat; getting young women to internalise body issues is horrible. Moving on, I have another small gripe. Becca is described as jamming that AUD (white noise) box into her ear so many times I did get a bit fed up! It seems to me that if you have lived with this problem all your life you would probably just keep, say, one little headphone in your ear the whole time you're out and about and adjust the volume as necessary. Not spend inordinate amounts of time putting it in, taking it out, forgetting to put it in when you're walking into a hospital, not being able to hear whispers at crucial moments because it's up too loud. Anyway, I guess you follow my drift, and really it isn't a major issue just a teeny irritant!

I enjoyed The Edge of Nowhere, I think it has a strong story that is told well.  I'll read the next one when it comes out too. There is still much about the island and Becca's life that needs exploring.

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