Reading level: Young adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR (Random House)
Release date: September 11, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher
Reviewed by: Jenn
The quaint little beach town of Winston, California, may be full of wholesome townsfolk, picturesque beaches, and laid back charm, but Clare Knight is about to uncover something underneath its thriving demeanor. Someone is hiding something, and it's as gruesome as the townsfolk, and their stately homes, are stunning. Amanda Stavros, fellow classmate and resident of Winston, is gone and there's no sign of her ever coming back. Everyone says she was taken and murdered, but where's the evidence? Why isn't there a single ounce of proof? And why is everyone okay with this, except for Clare?
Luckily—or as it's been turning out, unluckily—Clare possesses a gift, an ability to see visions from the clothes she works with. And since her clothes come solely from the townsfolk, Clare has become privy to some startling and disturbing memories of these townspeople. Will she uncover who killed Amanda Stavros? Or is she just moving herself up in line to be the next victim of Winston?
I adored AFTERTIME, the first book in Sophie Littlefield's dystopian series but I'd never tried any of her YA stuff so I wasn't sure what to expect from HANGING BY A THREAD. It's quite different from the Aftertime series but I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Clare and seeing Winston's seedy underbelly. The author has written a lovely suspenseful novel with a hint of the paranormal that has something to appeal to just about anyone.
Clare has just moved back to Winston with her mother, years after leaving. She's kept in touch with her childhood best friend, Rachel, who seems like your typical popular girl -- she's popular and rich, does well in school, and is a cheerleader and member of the Golden Key club (basically a society of civic-minded young women). Clare, on the other hand, is more of an individual. She makes and sells one-of-a-kind clothes, she doesn't join for the sake of joining...all of the time..., and she has a secret: she has a touch of psychometry when it comes to clothes. It's a gift (or curse, depending on whose perspective you adopt) that runs in her family and something she's had for years. It was fascinating that the things that can hurt her the most are also what she loves to create. Clare can get these terrible vibes off clothes and learn awful secrets but she loves to buy items at yard sales and vintage stores and create new clothing and accessories from them, despite the danger they might possess to her. That alone should tell you that Clare is gutsy. She's also not stupid, which is great. She finds herself getting sucked into the disappearance of Amanda Stavros but asks for help when she thinks she needs it. In many ways, young Clare is years ahead of her fictional peers, who can often be found walking towards the scary dark alley instead of running for help. It's something I really appreciated, and hope you will, too. =)
The overall plot of the book is somewhat predictable but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. The mystery surrounding Amanda Stavros' disappearance (and presumed death/murder) unfolds in a way that keeps you engaged, even if you know where there story is going. I was excited to see if Clare would figure it out and what she would do when she did. There aren't as many twists and turns as you might find in an adult book but there's definitely enough to make sure you want to get to the end as soon as possible, to see if Clare will solve Amanda's disappearance and survive to bring the felon to justice.
For romance lovers, there is a bit of that, though it's not the focus of HANGING BY A THREAD. Clare's eye is caught by local bad boy Jake, who ends up having a surprising amount of depth. (Surprising in the best way possible!) Their budding relationship is a sweet spot in the novel, even with the bumps they go through on the way.
As always, Sophie Jordan's prose does not disappoint. I felt instantly connected to Clare and completely immersed in this small California town. You get a great sense of the community and Clare's life from the start and it makes HANGING BY A THREAD a very easy read. This book will appeal to mystery lovers, particularly those who enjoy a supernatural flair in their stories. There may not be as much meat as you'd find in an adult book but HANGING BY A THREAD delivers a satisfying mystery and a plucky protagonist that you'll be rooting for.