Book Review: The Next Time You See Me

12Apr13

nexttime

Title: The Next Time You See Me

Author: Holly Goddard Jones

Genre: Suspense

Length: 372 pages

Library: Penn Hills

Challenge: Library Books Reading Challenge 2013

Summary: When a woman with a bad reputation goes missing, the investigation opens up a can of class warfare worms.

Analysis

Small-town life can be rough, especially if you’re from what used to be called “the wrong side of the tracks.” Ronnie Eastman enjoys her life to the fullest, though, breaking the monotony of her long days at the sewing factory with booze, dancing, and plenty of sleepovers with gentlemen callers. She even bought herself a sports car, because, well, YOLO, right? This free-wheeling attitude doesn’t sit well with most “respectable” people, so when Ronnie disappears, people just assume she’s up and vanished, the no-good slut. That free-wheeling, dismissive attitude does not sit well with Ronnie’s sister, Susanna, who kick-starts a police investigation, much to her husband’s dismay.

On the other side of town, on the edge of the forest, Emily–a misfit schoolgirl–finds a body, but, for heartbreaking reasons, chooses not to tell anyone about it, much in the same way she doesn’t tell anyone about being bullied at school, or about her secret crush on the new boy in town. The reader guesses right away that the body is probably Ronnie Eastman’s, and the tension begins to mount as Emily’s story of middle-school drama slowly and inexorably intertwines with Ronnie and Susanna’s, as well as with of an old, tired factory worker named Wyatt, who gets tired of being the butt of his younger, hipper co-workers’ jokes.

Jones has done a marvelous thing here: painted a portrait of a working-class town and the subtle, ugly class barriers that keep some of its inhabitants–the teachers, police officers, and hospital workers–from truly being able to help those who need it most. Bullying, domestic violence, caring for special needs kids, and many more of life’s burdens are depicted here, but the story really hits home whenever the wealthier characters clash with their less privileged counterparts. It’s people’s attitudes, and the dysfunctional behaviors cultivated by those attitudes, that hinder the case, and the reader finds her/himself wincing as something that could have gone so differently gets bogged down in the same old limiting beliefs. When, at last, the case is resolved and a measure of justice is meted out, there is no release, no sense that the cosmic scale has been balanced. We know instead, more bitterly than ever, just how mismatched the measures actually are. Powerful, sad, and amazing, especially with Jones’s final coda, one that shows just how powerful a hope has been snuffed out.

Recommended for: people who like their fiction gritty and realistic; fans of a good suspense novel; people who like novels about small-town life/drama; anyone who’s ever grown up blue-collar.

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