Synopsis (From GoodReads):
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
When I first received this book from the Random House First In Line program, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a murder mystery. I hadn't read that many mysteries before, but I have just now started to read quite a few of them, so I gave it a go. I am so appreciative that I did. This book was entertaining, scary, and took me to a world I knew nothing about.
What I Liked:Setting:
This book is set in the countries of Kenya, and Congo, Africa. Sadly, I really don't know enough about this part of the world beyond the fact that there is unimaginable suffering there due to never ending wars. The author clearly knew this place well and was able to convey not only the desperation of certain parts, but also the immense beauty. She captures what is obvious, that in every place there are 1000 little dramas going every day. Real people populate these countries with a plethora of experiences.
The book alternates between the privileged enclaves of business executives in Kenya, to the rough streets of Sangui City, to the lush countryside of Congo. Each place was brought to life with vivid details.
The main characters, Tina and Michael, are from different social groups. Tina's mother was a servant in Michael's household, where the two of them became childhood friends. This all changed with the murder of Tina's mother, and the realization (as they became teens) that Michael's Dad and Tina's Mom were lovers.
I love how resilient Tina is and how she never gives up. She has to think on her feet in order to survive now as an orphan. But she is not perfect. She has embraced an idea that Michael's dad murdered her mom, and she has nurtured her revenge for years. But could she be wrong? Also, she underestimates people and doesn't question their motives until it is too late. She also writes Michael off as a spoiled rich kid.
Michael certainly lives in a bubble, but he is also a conflicted character struggling with how to reconcile his privilege with what his father may be doing illegally. Did Michael's dad kill Tina's mom to keep her quiet? Michael must uncover the truth.
The adult characters mostly acted in their own self interest. With the exception of a nun, there really weren't any adults who were trustworthy in this book. However depressing this was, these characters were presented as complicated individuals who each had questionable moral compasses guiding their actions. Given how difficult life can be, can we really judge them? In regards to how they affected the kids in the story I vacillated between outrage and acceptance.
The mystery of who killed Tina's mother (and why) is wonderfully complex. One of the reasons I usually do not read mystery books is because often it is either too easy to figure out who did it, or it is wildly too hard. This book had the right mix of presenting the clues and keeping me guessing.
What I Was Mixed About:Triggers:
I will say that sometimes this book was difficult to read, given what I do know of what women experience in war-torn nations. I worried that female characters would be raped in the story. I cared about Tina so much, I didn't want anything bad to happen to her! While there were references to sexual violence, the details were not so vivid that I got nightmares. But some people who have triggers for sexual violence, may want to steer clear of this book.
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Genre: YA Mystery
Source: Random House First In Line program
Format: Paperback book
Recommendation: This was an entertaining YA book with strong characters, an action-packed story, and a mystery that kept me guessing. I hope everyone will read this book.