I always enjoy reading Jodi Picoult books while I’m reading them, but after I’ve had a chance to think about them, I start having reservations. Usually because she writes about hot topics that feel a bit sensationalized, or because she writes about realistic situations that always wrap up a little too neatly. Or because she writes characters rather than people, if that makes sense.
So I think I liked this book more than her past novels because while the characters are very much Book Characters, and things do wrap up a bit too neatly, there’s a level of fiction here that removes the book from the realistic in a way that suits her writing. Can’t elaborate without spoilers, so we’ll wait for the end of the review to explain.
We meet Jenna Metcalf, living with her grandmother, obsessed with the disappearance of her mother and convinced that she didn’t willingly abandon Jenna and her now-shell-shocked father after an accident on the elephant sanctuary she grew up on. (Whooph is that a sentence, and that’s only half of the setup). So Jenna contacts a PI (the former detective on her mother’s case) and a reluctant psychic for help.
The friendship that develops between the three is very sweet if credulity-straining (I REFUSE to believe that any thirteen year old could ride her bike with even the smallest drunk man on the (back? handlebars?) of her bicycle, and the skeptical psychic Serenity Jones is enjoyably irascible.
But. (here there be spoilers)
When Serenity solves the mystery of what happened to Jenna’s mother, she realizes that she’s not as bad a psychic as she had thought; Jenna and the PI are both dead. Basically anyone who interacts with Jenna has been.
The twist is unexpected even if it has been done before, and I actually found it fairly affecting. But this book is A LOT, even if Picoult handles it well.