The Leaving

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
The Leaving Book Poster Image
Fast-paced thriller seeks to solve mystery of missing teen.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's an easily accessible (as in low-on-scientific-jargon) introduction to the science of memory recovery and the link between identity and memory.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, imagination, and dedication are the keys to solving a problem -- or a mystery.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Scarlett and Lucas both come home to unsettled family situations, but that doesn't stop them from teaming up to track down the kidnapper. Even though most of the attention and resources are focused on the five returning teens, Avery remains determined to find out what happened to her brother.


A man is found murdered, a man falls down steps and dies, and there’s a school shooting. None of these incidents is described in graphic detail.


A few kisses.


Amazon and eBay are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and smoke a few times. One mother who had stopped drinking starts drinking again. 

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 15-year-old Written byAwaremom August 13, 2017

Don't like the underlying messages

Inferred throughout the book is sex between the various teens. Either wondering if they have had it or thinking they want to. Personally I don't feel that... Continue reading
Adult Written byanna314 April 29, 2019
Kid, 11 years old February 2, 2021

Oh my!

This is an amazing book, tbh, it can be a bit scary to younger kids, or kids who get scared easily. So, I think that it is your opinion tbh. Have fun! Great th... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers and mysteries

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