I am being thoroughly spoilt by books at the moment. I love a good contemporary YA, with issues galore and preferably some kind of impending doom that’s resolved in some way at the end. That possibly says a lot about me! But IN ANOTHER LIFE by Laura Jarratt ticks all the boxes for me, and here’s why:
- The book opens with the best ever inciting incident (I’m planning a story-writing workshop at the moment, so this is a phrase I’m very familiar with!): a text from a missing sister. “I need you. Please come.“ And of course, the sister does, getting on a plane to England with her father, leaving behind her mother and chronically sick brother.
- The voice is very strong. Hannah, the protagonist, talks directly to her missing sister Jenny in second person. “The hotel room. You’re still missing. There it is: that sudden sick feeling in my stomach every time I think of you now. It’s always there beneath everything.” Second person can be a tricky thing to pull off, but Laura sensibly uses it sparingly and thus to great effect. Hannah’s voice throughout is great – not too ‘teenage’ and mainly in present tense (apart from flashbacks)
- The plot. Damn, I really, REALLY wanted to know what happened to Jenny. Where is she? Why is she sending cryptic texts to her sister instead of just coming home? Is she trapped? Is she mixed up in something she can’t handle? The texts suggest she’s investigating something – some dark secret – to do with their family. But what on earth could it be? And should we mistrust Hannah and Jenny’s parents? Is Hannah in danger too? And then ANOTHER girl goes missing too – a friend of Jenny’s. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I was honestly gripped. Sophie McKenzie does this too. Dammit, these authors can plot and they know how to keep the tension sky-high
- Romance. But a decent one, a realistic one. Hannah falls for Harry, the boy who flies hawks and eagles as a job. Jenny has been working as an au pair on an English estate, and Harry is a young member of staff. He’s not good at the small talk, but then neither is Hannah. “Some girls like the quiet ones who don’t have to fill every second with how great they are. And those girls might not even know they like that until they meet someone like Harry.” Hannah is awkward around boys, but Harry is awkward around girls too, so once they figure out they don’t have to follow convention, everything becomes easier. And all the time, Hannah knows that when Jenny is found, she’ll be going home to the States, and will have to leave Harry behind. But like any strong attraction, that’s not enough to stop her falling head over heels for him
- A good ending. By which I mean everything is properly tied up, and you’re not left feeling it’s a cop-out. It’s hard to do this well and still make everything feel realistic, but let me tell you this – it’s pretty chilling. There are Big Secrets, and Hidden Insanity, and Heartbreak, and Hope, and that’s ALL I’ll say on the matter
It’s not quite perfect for me. For one, we don’t get to meet the kids Jenny was looking after, and I feel this is a missed opportunity. I can see they’d add more characters into the cast, but equally, Jenny’s job was to look after them, and Hannah and her father stay on the estate – so how come they don’t feature in the scenes? My second issue concerns something Hannah does towards the end of the book. I can’t say what it is, but it’s monumentally stupid, and in that moment I didn’t believe it. At that stage of the book, when we know Hannah so well – I just didn’t believe it. I know why it’s there, and as a plot device it’s absolutely necessary, but…I still don’t think she’d do it!
Minor quibbles aside, this is a really gripping, heart-thumping read that challenges the reader to attempt to stay one step ahead of the characters (unlikely!) and contains a couple of really wonderful teenage characters. And now I want my own hawk.
IN ANOTHER LIFE is published by Electric Monkey and is out now.