A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tara Altebrando's The Leaving is the story of six kindergartners who vanished without a trace, leaving no clues as to who might haven taken them. Eleven years later, five of them return home with no memory of where they’ve been or what happened to the sixth child who went missing that same day. As the five begin to recover fragments of memory, two of them set out to solve the mystery of their kidnapping. Taking place over the span of 15 days and narrated in alternating chapters by returnees Lucas and Scarlett and Avery, the sister of the missing child, it’s a fast-paced thriller, full of unexpected plot twists. There's some violence -- a man is found murdered, a man falls down steps and dies, and there's a school shooting and references to the original kidnapping -- but none of these incidents is described in graphic detail. Sexual content is limited to a few kisses.
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What's the story?
Five teenagers return to their hometown 11 years after they mysteriously disappeared. They have no memory of who took them, where they’ve been, or even if they've been together during those years. Most unsettling, none of them has any memory of Matt, the sixth child presumed kidnapped with the five. They return to families changed and sometimes broken, and while some seem content to settle into their former lives and identities, two are determined to solve the mystery of their kidnapping. The story unfolds with one tantalizing clue after another -- the discovery of a cult novel whose plot mirrors their disappearance and captivity, notes suggesting Matt may still be alive, recovered memories that hint at a past romantic relationship between Lucas and Scarlett. And why did everyone dismiss a possible link between the disappearance and a school shooting?
Is it any good?
This abduction mystery relies on a fast-paced plot filled with twists and turns rather than the all-too-common storyline of teens being sexually abused by their kidnapper. Interwoven in the story is a provocative question: Who are we without our memories?
While the resolution of the mystery and identity of the kidnapper are believable, packing all this into a two-week time line is a stretch, although it's one not likely to bother readers caught up in the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about reunions. Have you ever been separated for a long period of time from your family or best friends? What was it like when you were reunited? Was it awkward or easy to pick up where you left off?
Why do you think movies and TV shows about child abduction are so popular?
If you were writing your autobiography, what are the childhood memories you would want to include?
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