by Jessica Warman
Published on May 19, 2015
Source: ARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder. Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.
My take: At first, I wasn't sure about The Last Good Day of the Year. I tried it when I was in a noisy and crowded situation, and had trouble getting into it. Then, over the weekend, I was all by myself in a lounge chair with a glass of lemonade, and I started over and ended up really enjoying it.
First off I should say that to me, The Last Good Day of the Year did not read like mainstream YA. I think you could shelve this book with adult mystery and it would fit in just fine. It's one of those books in which all the tension and suspense run underneath the surface. I absolutely love mysteries like that, because they allow my mind to explore all the who/what/where/when/why possibilities. But if you read a book like that and your mind wanders to what you're going to have for dinner, you may prefer something more plot-driven.
The story revolves around a decade old mystery: main character Sam is still dealing with the emotional aftermath of her younger sister's disappearance ten years earlier. As you find out in the early chapters of the story, Sam feels a lot of guilt in that she was there -- right in the room -- when her sister was taken. Of course, Sam was only seven when that happened. Through the course of the book, she slowly goes over that night and what she saw (or didn't see.)
This story is more psychological suspense than page-turning thriller. Sam's investigation is more gradual than purposeful, as the book examines the impact of the sister's disappearance on Sam's family, the rest of the neighborhood, the community, the person who was accused of the kidnapping. The story is very subtly and skillfully woven, though some readers might wish for a different resolution.
I'd definitely recommended The Last Good Day of the Year for those who enjoy true crime and/or more character-driven mystery.