Published by Bloomsbury on May 19, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
A new powerful thriller from the globally-embraced author of Between.
Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.
Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.
Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in this arresting page-turner.
~ This book will remind you of pretty much every famous missing child case in the last few decades- it’s got touches of JonBenét Ramsey and Elizabeth Smart, and straight out horror movie as 7 year old Samantha and her best friend Remy watch a man dressed up as Santa kidnap Samantha’s little sister, Turtle.
~ Why this reminded me so much of the Elizabeth Smart case, at least partially, is that in the Smart case, her younger sister saw it happening but was too young to really understand what she was seeing. It took months after the trauma for her to realize who she’d seen take her sister. Warman does a great job expressing the fear that poor Sam and Remy are feeling in that basement. Seven is just too young to be expected to properly handle a kidnapper.
~ Plus, this book opens in the mid 1980’s, and then continues ten years later in the mid 1990’s (when I was a teenager too!). I grew up in the same world as Samantha- literally. The family is living in Pennsylvania when Turtle in kidnapped (I moved there when I was a teen) and then move to Virginia after the trial, before returning to PA (I grew up in VA, and moved back some years ago). So the time frame that the book covers, and the locations felt very familiar to me.
~ I like that Samantha’s family, while attractive enough to get media attention, are lower middle class. They don’t have a lot of money, and Turtle’s kidnapping breaks them as a family. Prior to the kidnapping there had been tension between oldest sister Gretchen and her family, and afterwards it only gets worse. Samantha tries to be the perfect daughter to make up for her guilt, and poor little Hannah is the replacement kid who has no clue about Turtle (granted, Hannah’s a bit young for that information).
~ I got so into this book, I actually drew a diagram of the neighborhood… okay, just the four townhouses that Samantha’s family’s home is connected to, but still, I can’t remember the last time a book drove me to draw. I did it so I could better understand the set up and who lived where. I totally had my Nancy Drew hat on while reading this. And to give myself total credit- I didn’t flip to the back of the book even once, despite the fact that all the things I didn’t know were killing me with curiosity!
~ I’m not sure is author Jessica Warman has been through the loss of a loved one, but she certainly writes like she understands grief and grief support groups. Losing a loved one, especially a child, is not something that really heals with time. Society kind of pressures people to get over death within a certain time frame, but it just doesn’t work like that. Samantha’s family is broken and battered in the wake of Turtle’s kidnapping, and even though they are still together, still continuing to live, they are not the same family they were before.
~ Sam’s return to Pennsylvania, to Remy, the boy who had been her best friend and who is now a complete stranger to her, and the struggle she has with living in the house where her sister was taken from, is an emotional roller coaster. She’s having to deal with some typical teen problems- boys, a job cleaning out her neighbor’s basement, and dealing with her sisters, but there’s also the aftermath of Davis Gordon’s book about Turtle’s disappearance and some creepy things happening to make Samantha have to confront what went down the night Turtle was taken.
~ I was pretty much on the edge of my seat this whole book- only the very end let me down, as it seemed to wrap up too fast and abruptly- at least in my opinion. And I have some questions and issues with the actions of two of the characters, because, seriously, wtf? However, while it made me take the book down half a star, it did not keep it from being a fantastic read. This book and it’s characters are going to stay with me for a long time to come.
Samantha- our main character, dealing with the kidnapping of her baby sister ten years ago.
Remy- Sam’s next door neighbor and previous bff, there the night of the kidnapping.
Turtle- real name Tabitha, taken from her basement in the early hours of New Year’s Day by a very thin Santa Claus. Sounds a bit like an urban legend, right?
Gretchen- Samantha and Turtle’s older sister, dated the main suspect, Steven.
Abby- Gretchen’s best friend, lives in the same row of townhomes.
Sharon- Samantha’s mother, beautiful and broken by Turtle’s disappearance.
Paul- Samantha’s father, still feeling guilt and severe depression.
Hannah- Samantha’s 5 year old sister and the star of Sharon Myer’s universe. Has no clue about Turtle.
Steven- 20 something year old who was dating 17 year old Gretchen at the time of Turtle’s kidnapping.
Ed – Abby’s father and friend of Samantha’s family.
Darla- Ed’s live in girlfriend and mother figure to Abby.
Mike and Susie- Remy’s parents and close friends of the Myers.
Officer Bert- the officer who initially interviews Sam and Remy.
Heather- aka Red Jeep, or Remy’s girlfriend.
Davis Gordon- reporter who wrote Forty-Eight Minutes of Doubt. Sam’s family thought he was writing a book in support of them, but he was also interviewing the family of the man accused, and he reveals some skeletons in the Myers closet.
Noah- a boy whom Samantha met through grief support group.
There were so many moments, but in particular the scenes that were most evocative for me were the ones that dealt with Sam and her family attending a meeting of their grief support group. And later, when Sam meets with Noah, it was raw and emotional and honest.
Also, the funnel cake detail is going to haunt me forever. Literally, forever.
Stop the Clock:
The Last Good Day of the Year was a million times better than I could have hoped for, and it’s definitely a book that I can’t wait to discuss with other readers (especially the end!). It’s nice to read a YA book that isn’t a contemporary romance or a mystery/thriller that doesn’t have a paranormal element. This book kept me guessing and it fully engaged me. I would definitely recommend this to older teens and adults, because it’s very much a mystery thriller with a touch of YA, so there are some harsh elements (funnel cake!) and it does deal with loss and grief and child predators. Of course, I was reading King and Koontz and Saul and Rice as a tween/young teen, so it’s all relative.
*Plus, the book comes out on May 19th, just a few days before my birthday. Hint, hint. 😉
The Last Good Day of the Year gets a Midnight Book rating of: