Review: Fragments of the Lost

Fragments of the Lost
Megan Miranda
Crown Books for Young Readers
Published November 14, 2017

Synopsis: Jessa Whitworth knew she didn’t belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb’s room. But she couldn’t deny that she was everywhere–in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things–even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb’s life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb’s accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. The description made it sound like a mystery/thriller, but when I first started reading, it felt much more like a very sad book about a young woman grieving for her dead ex-boyfriend. The mystery aspects slowly revealed themselves, and I was completely hooked about 50 pages into it.

FragmentsJessa is a high-school junior, and her ex-boyfriend Caleb died in a car accident a few weeks ago. They had only been broken up few a couple of weeks, and she feels very guilty about his death because he drove his car off a bridge during a storm shortly after seeing her at her track meet. Caleb’s mother asks Jessa to clean out his room, and because she feels so guilty, she agrees to do it.

As she goes through Caleb’s things, each item triggers a memory. At first, the memories are bittersweet and mostly happy, as she remembers the good times. But as the days go on, the things she discovers in his room cause her to question everything about her relationship with Caleb. How much did she really know him? Was he keeping secrets? What really happened the day he died? With the help of Caleb’s best friend Max, with whom she has a complicated history, she tries to figure out the mystery of Caleb and come to terms with her own grief.

Fragments of the Lost was an excellent mystery. I was sucked into it very quickly, and it was a quick read for me, because I couldn’t put it down (I’m always like that when I’m reading a good mystery). I find YA thrillers a bit hit or miss for me. Often, the plots are a little simplistic and I can figure out the culprit pretty easily (a lifetime of reading mysteries gives me an edge). But Fragments of the Lost kept me guessing. It’s obvious pretty early on that there’s much more to Caleb’s death than meets the eye, but the plot takes a lot of twists, and I was as much in the dark as Jessa until the whole truth was revealed. I really enjoyed this one, and I’m interested to check out the author’s adult mysteries.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

Review: Retribution Rails

Retribution Rails (Vengeance Road 2)
Erin Bowman
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt November 7, 2017

Retribution Rails is a companion novel to last year’s Vengeance Road. It’s not strictly a sequel, and according to Goodreads, you don’t need to have read the first book. So, I forged ahead without reading the first book. It’s true that this isn’t a sequel in the traditional sense, and the main characters are new characters who didn’t appear in the first book, but some characters from the first book appear in Retribution Rails and the book does contain spoilers for Vengeance Road.

Retribution RailsIt’s 1887 and the American frontier is rapidly changing because of the advent of railroads. In the Arizona Territory, Reece Murphy is an unwilling outlaw. He’s a member of the notorious Rose Riders, but he’s not an outlaw by choice. A few years earlier, the Rose Riders murdered the family Reece worked for, and they only spared his life because he may be able to lead the gang to the man who killed the gang’s former leader. He’s forced into the gang, and he quickly learns that escape attempts are futile and that he’s stuck with the gang until he can lead them to the mysterious cowboy.

Charlotte Vaughn is a young woman in search of trouble. Her father has just passed away, and her uncle is trying to steal the family business from her and her mother. He plans to force her mother to marry him. Charlotte runs away, thinking she can find some way to stop her uncle. Her life’s ambition is to become a journalist. It’s a lofty ambition for a teenage girl in 1887, but the pioneering Nellie Bly was working at this time, so the possibility was there, even if rather remote. Charlotte and Reece’s paths cross when the Rose Riders hold up the train she’s traveling on. Reece spares her life, and their lives quickly become entwined, something neither of them particularly wants.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced and exciting, and the story felt very true to the time period. I feel like the author did her homework (and the author’s note gives details about her research). There’s some exploration of what it means to be a woman at this time. Charlotte is smart and determined, but that may not be enough in a society where men have all the power.

Reece and Charlotte are both very interesting characters. Reece may be an outlaw, but he’s not really suited to the life. He wrestles constantly with the things he’s forced to do to stay alive. Charlotte is in many ways a proper young lady, but she’s also quite ruthless and thoughtless, much more so than the supposed criminal, Reece.

I loved the interplay between the two characters. She thinks he’s a worthless criminal at first, and he basically feels the same way about himself. But as their paths keep crossing and they end up having to work together, and their mutual dislike eventually turns into grudging mutual admiration. There’s none of the dreaded insta-love here. A connection does grow between them, but it’s not the main focus of the story.

Retribution Rails is a great read, and I will be checking out the first book soon.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.