Synopsis from Goodreads:
Venus Black is a straitlaced A student fascinated by the study of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, goes missing.
More than five years later, Venus is released from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her beloved brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start in Seattle, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.
I’m generally not a big fan of YA, but this is one of those young adult books that won me over. I love the web of characters that Heather Lloyd has weaved, each with their own flaw that is mercilessly public at the most inopportune time. You love and hate each character for what they have done, which makes the fact that each one is redeemed by Leo, the most unlikely of heroes, all the more sweet. The character with the most outward flaws helps heal the inner struggles of each of the other characters without even trying. He is their joy, and he is their healing.
Throughout the book, the reader gets to experience each character’s point-of-view. I LOVE that she included Leo’s as well. It’s not easy to write for an autistic character, and I think many authors would shy away from the task. She not only took the risk, but did so successfully and in a way that makes Leo seem very authentic.
My only complaint is that I wish the author would have stated what happened the night of the crime at the beginning of the book. By the time the reader reached the end, you understood the jest of the crime. It wasn’t a surprise. As a result, being fed little tidbits about that night throughout the book frustrated me at times. I kept checking what I had already read to see if I missed the story. I would have preferred the author to either commit to making the crime a surprise until the end of the book or to state the crime upfront. Essentially telling the story, but not really including the details until the end, took away some of the luster from the end.
I would definitely recommend this book to my YA-loving friends. 4/5 stars.