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The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

I discovered The Leaving in an article about the best young adult books being released in June and after reading the synopsis, I went to Amazon and purchased it. When it arrived, I started reading it right away, even though I currently have 3 other books I'm reading; I needed to read this ASAP. I finished it in a day, and it's been a long time since I've done that with a book. This book is definitely on my must read list! I will be recommending this to everyone!

(Source: Kelsey Darling)


Five Sentence Summary

On the first day of kindergarten, 6 children go missing: Max, Scarlett, Lucas, Kristen, Sarah, and Adam. Now, 11 years later, they show up again, only Max isn't with them, and they have no memory of the last 11 years or who Max is. The novel switches between Scarlett, Lucas, and Avery, Max's younger sister, as they try to discover who they are, who took them, and where Max is. The majority of the novel takes place in the first 9 days (Day Zero to Day Eight) of the children returning from The Leaving, the name the case has been given since Scarlett told her mother before going missing that "she was going on a trip, to the leaving (p. 2)in which they all learn that they have secret talents and that they have left themselves clues to their past lives. From the very first page, you are on edge trying to figure out what the kids are missing, hiding, and what happened to Max.

Likes & Dislikes
  • Tara Altebrando is amazing at cliffhangers. So many chapters end on something important and you have to wait until you get to that persons next chapter to find out what happens. For me, the biggest cliffhanger was when Scarlett and Lucas went to Anchor Beach after a clue led them there and a security guard says that he recognizes them and then it changes to Avery's chapter. I was so frustrated that I wasn't going to get my answers right away, but in a good way that makes you keep reading.
  • I also adore the uniqueness that Alrebrando put into the chapters, specifically Scarlett's and Lucas's. As their memories were coming back, they were edited to make you realize that it was a memory, or that they were trying to work past a block. Also, with Scarlett's chapters, there were more unique editing touches that were put into it.
(Source: Kelsey Darling; pp. 11, 14, 97, 167)
  • This book is like nothing I've ever read before, I've never seen a movie or TV show like it; The Leaving is 100% unique. Yes, there are novels/shows/movies about one child being missing and returning (like The Face on the Milk Carton) and then there's also the TV show The 4400 that deals with 4400 missing people returning, but both are on completely different type of abduction stories. In The Leaving, the kids were taken to erase memories, one specifically, and ended up taking much longer than planned.
  • One thing that I didn't really like was that Avery instantly developed a crush, and almost an obsession, on Lucas. In the first scene that they interact, she yells at him and then throws him under the bus when she tells news reports that one of returners has a memory of a carousel, which is Lucas's memory. But in their next scene together, she becomes infatuated with him and she is insanely jealous that he appears to have a relationship with Scarlett. She even breaks up with her boyfriend because of it. Yes, she was already feeling kind of bleh about her boyfriend, but I have a feeling that if no one returned, she would have dated him a little bit longer. It felt forced and unnatural.
(Source: Giphy)
  • The ending felt a little rushed. The last 3 days are Day Nine, Day Eleven, and Day Fifteen. All of the clues have been found and police are following the leads and everything is coming together, but I just feel like it could have been a little slower, or there could have been a little bit more. It just felt like it was wrapped up too quickly, but maybe it's because I didn't want it to end.
Wrap Up

I am so glad I got this book. I was beginning to feel sluggish in my reading. I have started a few books lately and haven't wanted to pursue them past the first few chapters, no matter how interesting they were. But this book brought back my love of reading.

(Source: Giphy)

All of the characters are very well thought out and their development through the book is so real (aside from Avery's infatuation with Lucas). Some of the characters I loved the most weren't even the main characters. Scarlet's mother Tammy is a recovering alcoholic and believes that aliens abducted the children because they all had parents that weren't exactly winners; but when Scarlet asks Tammy why she wants to badly to believe it's aliens, her answer breaks your heart. 

"Did you pass the alien probe yet?" Tammy asked.
"Why do you want it to be aliens?" Scarlett plopped down at the foot of the bed...
Tammy looked at her over her reading glasses. I don't want it to-"
"It's the least likely explanation," Scarlett cut in. "So just answer the question."
Her mothers whole body tensed.
Then she breathed out loudly through her nose.
Her voice was a few tones deeper, almost possessed-sounding. When she said, "Because I do not want to believe that another human being could have done this to you." (pp. 249-250)

In that one passage, Scar understands her mother a little bit better, and Tammy voices a fear that any parent or guardian or anyone who loves a child has had. Crimes against children are so unbelievable because who could imagine harming a poor, innocent child that cannot defend itself.

Later, after they have ID'd a person that the police believe took the children, Scarlett has another meaningful moment with Tammy that makes you love her mother even more.

"The cat was in the corner, cowering, like maybe it had never seen Tammy vacuum.
Then it hopped up onto an end table that had once been covered with...
That was it.
No more UFO Insiders.
No more ET magazines.
Whole piles of back issues...gone.
"Mom??"
It just slipped out. 
Tammy hadn't heard.
The vacuum too loud.
Louder: "Mom?"
She turned, used a foot to switch off the machine.
Looked like she might cry.
"You okay?..."
"What happened to all your magazines and stuff?..."
"I'm pretty sure it wasn't him," Scarlett said. "John Norton."
Her mother shrugged. "Either way, I'm pretty sure now it wasn't aliens." (pp. 306-308)

Between these two conversations, Scarlett and Tammy make great strides in their relationship that has been pretty tense since Scar returned. Maybe it's because I have such a strong bond with my mother, but I love seeing mothers and daughters connecting.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Avery's mother who has not taken her son missing and not returning with the others very hard, which is totally understandable, to a degree. In the beginning, Avery says that her mother takes sleeping pills; when the other children have returned, Avery says that her mom is a "mannequin mom." And in the end, when it is discovered that Max is dead, she has a complete break down and does some out-patient therapy. 

When I was 19, I lost my oldest niece in a mall at Christmastime; she was in a dressing room. But for the 20 minutes I was looking for her, I went into an extreme panic. The idea that I lost my niece, that she could have been kidnapped while she was in my charge, still to this day, I become completely paralyzed with fear. Although Avery's mother did not handle her depression in a way that she could still be a mother to her surviving daughter, I 100% understand how she got there, and I do not fault her for it.

This novel is beautifully written, the suspense is never-ending, and the "bad people" are people who you would never think of. I loved every second of this book!

(Source: Giphy)
Rating: 9/10
Pages: 421 (hardcover)
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary

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