The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Summary from Goodreads:
Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back–with no idea of where they’ve been.
Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They’re sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn’t really recognize the person she’s supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they’re entirely unable to recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max’s sister Avery, who needs to find her brother–dead or alive–and isn’t buying this whole memory-loss story.
Most of the books I read are series, but I do read the occasional stand alone especially thrillers and mysteries. I picked this one through Netgalley, mostly because of the cover. Those lonely swings on the beach just gave me chills, along with the subtitle. I really wanted to know what happened to those six and why only 5 came back.
The book opens with the five waking up in the park, not remembering how they got there or even who they really were. The rest of the story is the struggle the characters take trying to recover their memories and coming to terms with the families and friends they left behind. We only hear from two of the missing as narrators, Lucas and Scarlett. There is a third narrator, Avery, who is the sister of Max, the one who did not return. Avery very much wants to know what happened to Max and she is determined to get the real story from those who have returned. Both Scarlet and Lucas also want to understand what happened to them, but the three others are not as interested and just want to get on with their lives.
So what is eventually revealed to have happened to these six kids, is a little bit science fiction and a little bit fantastical. The plot was very convoluted and hard to follow at times, but it was still a riveting read. I could see both reactions that the kids had, from Lucas and Scarlet being driven to know what happened and the other three’s apathetic attitude as being very realistic. Avery was a harder character to understand and to like. She barely remembers the older brother that went missing, but she is so driven to understand what happened to him, that she becomes a little hard to sympathize with at times. Some of the parents were hard to understand and sympathize with as well. Still it was a good story and a real page turner.