Expected publication: November 13th 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: ARC via publisher
Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he can barely remember despise him for his father's crimes. It's bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac--and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.
Owen's only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets--and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same Preacher Woods he's claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past--and write a better future.
In true Elston form, Ashley sets up a mystery involving Owen Foster, a wealthy boarding school teen. Foster's living his life at school until his mom shows up one day, and tells him:
1. His father has been embezzling from his employees - one of few major employers in their small town, and has now disappeared, and
2. They now have nothing, and Owen has to leave school and come home.
If you think it's awkward going home to a town where everyone hates your father, and suspects your family is involved with his crimes, you're correct. Elston does a great job of showing the palpable anger felt by the town, as well as Owen's own sense of confusion and betrayal, as he tries to work out just how it has all led to this. There's a definite question of whether we truly know everyone in our lives - even those closest to us - if they're corrupted by something like money.
But at the same time, Elston cleverly unfolds a dual narrative, involving the past of one of the characters. Without giving too much away, Elston expertly weaves a tale of conflict, self-recrimination and doubt for this secondary character, before dropping a bombshell that had me going: "WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?" It's brilliantly misleading, but not in a cheap, gotcha! sort of way. Elston has clearly put a lot of thought into how this secondary character's life has unfolded, before leading it to its inevitable conclusion.
Again, without too many spoilers, the story ends in a way that feels satisfying for all involved. There are real stakes and not every problem is fixed, but you definitely feel like the journey was worth it, and the characters have progressed and survived.
About the author:
Ashley Elston is the author of several novels including: The Rules for Disappearing (a finalist in the Best Young Adult Novel category of the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards) and This Is Our Story. She has a liberal arts degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and worked for many years as a wedding photographer before turning her hand to writing. Ashley lives in Shreveport, Louisiana with her husband and three sons. For more information about Ashley and her books, please visit www.ashleyelston.com.