Mass market paperback: 312 pages
Reading level: YA
Publisher: Coleman & Stott
Release date: November 29, 2011
Series: The Nature of Grace #1
Reviewed by: Jenn
16 year old Grace was reared in the wilderness. Her first pet was a bear named Simon. Her first potty, an oak tree. And, her first swing, a forest vine. Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her everything he knew about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.
When Grace's dad goes missing on a routine patrol, unlike everyone in her sleepy mountain town, she refuses to believe he’s dead. After finding a Cheetos bag and stolen government file, Grace is convinced she’s one step closer to proving all the non-believers wrong.
One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from imminent danger by Mo, a hot guy who has an intoxicating accent and a secret. Grace has never felt a connection like this before, certainly not with her ex-boyfriend, the adoring, but decidedly unrugged, Wyn.
After a few run-ins with the town's police chief, her father's partner, and some new evidence, Grace travels deeper into the wilderness that has always been her refuge only to learn that her father's disappearance is not a mere coincidence.
Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to emerge from an epidemic that’s spreading like wild fire, threatening everything and everyone she’s ever loved.
Untraceable is a little different from the usual books we talk about here at Tynga’s Reviews because it’s set in the real world. No dystopia, no paranormal elements, no steampunk gadgets in sight. But I love a good thriller so there was no way for me to pass Untraceable up after reading the book description! And you know what? Untraceable is an amazing debut, filled with rich worldbuilding, strong characters, and an unpredictable plot (though there were a couple moments that made me go “hmm” slightly before Grace).
Grace is a great main character. Shelli’s done a great job of capturing Grace’s voice. I have this amazing mental picture of her searching the woods, all disheveled and spunky, hopeful and despairing. She’s got such a strong personality and is so determined to find her father and you can’t help but feel for her as everyone encourages her to accept that her father is dead. I was rooting for Grace the whole time, particularly when things got dicey, and I loved how quippy she was throughout the novel. And while some of the pop culture references seem a bit too old for Grace, who’s sixteen, who am I to judge? I love British shows from the 60s so perhaps it’s not all that odd.
Plot-wise, Untraceable really moves. Grace’s search for her father gives us a lot of woods lore and also propels her into some dangerous situations. There’s a fantastic narrative flow that makes you desperate to find out if Grace will figure out what’s going on. Some of these situations felt like they shouldn’t be in a YA book because the content was kind of dark but they made sense in the narrative and are very well written. And if the Hunger Games books qualify as YA then there’s no reason Untraceable shouldn’t be shelved there too. I want to be clear: I’m not criticizing Untraceable for tackling mature subject matter; some of the moments made me sit back and say, “Whoa.” It’s heavy stuff but the book as a whole is a great read.
The B storyline in Untraceable revolves around Grace’s romantic life. Grace has justifiably back-burnered romance since she’s on a mission but, just like in real life, connections pop up when she’s least expecting them, and Grace finds herself torn between her ex, Wyn, and her new interest, Mo. It’s a sweet triangle and you can see the draw of both guys, though it’s pretty clear who Grace prefers by the end. It was refreshing to see a character who wanted to choose and who does her best not to lead on the guy she’s not as interested in. I’m all for love triangles – I think they make stories a lot of fun when they’re done well – but it’s cool to see a heroine make a choice.
All in all, Untraceable was a thrilling rollercoaster of a book and I can’t wait to see what happens to Grace next!