The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

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The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Memory experiments, children returned after having been kidnapped more than a decade previously, and a mystery to unravel. The Leaving is an addictive read. Deeply interesting about memory and collective trauma, but the mystery aspect slightly less successful.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408877805

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Eleven years after they disappeared in the traumatic event the local community knows as The Leaving, five sixteen-year-olds come home. Where have they been? Who took them? And where is Max, the sixth child? Why has he not come home too? And why can the five remember nothing about themselves or where they have been?

The unravelling of the mystery is told by three of the protagonists. Scarlett, whose mother feels like a stranger, but who remembers Lucas. Lucas, who remembers Scarlett but not Max. And Avery, Max's sister, who never went anywhere, and who remembers the night of The Leaving with utter clarity...

The Leaving is an addictive read. And rather a topical one. There have been several high profile cases of missing children being found many years later and you can't help but be fascinated by the difficulties such people must have in returning to normal life. I was as addicted to the recent TV show Thirteen for that very reason. Because the five returnees in this story have had their memories erased, they have an awareness that they have suffered deep trauma but cannot remember it. In many ways, this is a new trauma on top of the old. And the novel is at its strongest when it is discussing the nature and forming of memory. Despite wanting to turn the pages as quickly as possible, so absorbed are you, you can't help but disappear down a few memory rabbit holes of your own. These parts are beautifully written, as full of mystery as of mind-bending concepts.

I liked all three narrators. Lucas and Scarlett, the two returnees, begin as ciphers and confused jumbles of random thoughts but their intrinsic personalities soon emerge and you can see that they are who they are, amnesia or not. Avery, the little sister left behind after The Leaving, the girl who has grown up in the shadow of it, has as much of a struggle to make sense of it all. You wish them all well, despite the many missteps they make.

The mystery aspect of the story is perhaps a little less successful. I think it was always intended for it to take a back seat to the exploration of memory that is the book's main intent, but the denouement felt a little anti-climactic to me. I was left ever so slightly dissatisfied.

If you're looking for an original story that takes up some recent and current news stories and winds them into themes of our understandings of ourselves and our brains, and has some beautifully lyrical writing, then The Leaving is one for you. If your enjoyment of a mystery requires the perfect clever plot resolution that you never saw coming, then you might be a little disappointed. My feet are mostly in the former camp, so I recommend The Leaving to those of you like me.


If memory interests you, you might also enjoy Bloodchild by Tim Bowler, absorbing fantasy thriller in which a young boy's accident leaves him without memory. Is Will suffering from hallucinations or visions?

Buy The Leaving by Tara Altebrando at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Leaving by Tara Altebrando at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Leaving by Tara Altebrando at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Leaving by Tara Altebrando at Amazon.com.


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