Are You Still There by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Genres: YA; Mystery/Suspense; Contemporary
Published: September 1st, 2015
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Description from Goodreads:
After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, “perfect student” Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber’s identity.
Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?
I finished this book yesterday and I’m still really torn about how I feel about it and I can’t really go into many details because I don’t want to spoil anyone. There might be minor spoilers in this, but nothing huge. I’m going to go about reviewing this one in a different way than usual and just talk about what I did and didn’t like.
What I Didn’t Like:
Right at the beginning, I was really confused about the lock-down. I don’t know how they’re doing things now, but when I was in high school like 10 years ago, lock-down was for potential shooters and the like, not a bomb threat. I’ve never heard of doing that for a bomb. I thought the protocol for any establishment was to get people away from the possible bomb, not lock them inside with it.
I’m also not buying the helpline. I’m not saying that students couldn’t work on something like that, I just don’t believe that they would throw the kids into that situation without some training.
The “cat-and-mouse” thing wasn’t really a big part of the story. I expected this to be more of a thriller and less of a contemporary, kind of romance-y story, but the bomber kind of took a backseat to Gabi’s day-to-day life.
The characters drove me mad for the first half or more of the book. I seriously hated Gabi, her friend Beth, and most of the other characters. Some of their decisions were baffling or infuriating, and sometimes not very believable.
What I’m Not Sure if I Liked/Disliked:
Miguel. I think I liked him, but at times he was kind of controlling and it bothered me. I’m pretty sure his heart was in the right place, but he could have acted better.
Stranger’s manifesto. I won’t say anything else because of potential spoilers.
The romance. I don’t hate romance as much as I used to, but it’s not something I seek out, usually. When I requested this ARC, I didn’t know the romance-y bits would make up such a large part of the story. It wasn’t bad, just not what I expected.
What I Did Like:
This book tackled some serious issues, and in a way I haven’t seen done before. (I’m not saying it hasn’t been done, just that I personally haven’t seen it.) Bullying, teen suicide, school threats, etc. are all tough subjects, and I think Scheerger mostly handled these things well.
I wish we’d gotten to know some of the characters better, but I also kind of enjoyed not knowing much about them. The bomber could be anyone, so it made sense. Also, I’m really glad Gabi showed some signs of growing as a person by the end of the book.
The pacing was really good and I finished this in a day.
While I figured out who Stranger was really early on, I didn’t expect what happened at the end. That part actually shocked me a little.
The characters, in general, by the end of the story. After Gabi joins the helpline, I thought most of her interactions with people were a bit more realistic (and I stopped wanting to hit her over the head with something) The friendships that were formed because of the helpline, and the growing up that happened with some of the characters really helped this story along, I think.
Overall, there were some things I liked and some things I didn’t like. I might recommend this book, but probably not to many people. However, I enjoyed the writing and pacing, so I might read more of Sarah Lynn Scheerger’s books in the future.
*I received a free copy for review from Netgalley*