Title: Are You Still There
Author: Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Publication: September 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Co.
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley
After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, “perfect student” Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber’s identity.
Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends? Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse, is she part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?
I received a Digital ARC of this book from Albert Whitman & Co. via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
Are You Still There was a surprising read. This book had me first by its synopsis. But as I started reading, it was beyond what I’ve expected.
The book starts off with what seems like a diary entry called Stranger’s Manifesto. Then it shifts to Gabi’s POV as she’s hiding in the school bathroom after a lockdown when a bomb was discovered to be planted in their school. (Want a sneak peek? Check out the first 2 chapters here) Right from that scenario, I already knew that I was going to enjoy this book. The execution was spot on and captivating. It was as if I was in the public toilet too, hiding, scared for my life.
After that incident, the school initiates a crisis helpline for the students and Gabi is recruited to be part of it. Her experience in the helpline opened her eyes in the reality of what’s going on around her school and how she tends to overlook everything. Through the helpline, she met new people and learned about the students more than she thought she knew.
Then, the bomber starts calling and threatens that there will be another attack.
It gets creepier when Gabi receives direct threats (?) in the form of playing cards with disturbing drawings she keeps finding. It seems like the bomber is targeting Gabi specifically. So, the big question is why her and who is doing it.
The mystery behind the Stranger’s identity kept the suspense running for the whole book. At first, I wasn’t really a fan of how there weren’t enough clues to the culprit’s identity because I’m really into the guessing game whenever it comes to mysteries and thrillers but then I realized how it really works well with the plot. The Stranger was someone who wanted to be noticed, but in his/her high school, he/she was invisible and that was the clue itself. He/she is invisible.
Are You Still There is an eye-opening book about the realities of high school and what do some of the students go through. Sometimes, people are just looking for someone who is willing to listen.
Also, check out my interview with Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger!
Stranger’s Manifesto – A penny for Whodunit’s thoughts? You got it. It’s among my favorite parts in the book. The Stranger gives the readers a piece of his/her mind and it’s even done in a creative way!
Unputdownable – The combination of an uncommon plot, straight-forward narrative and quick pacing had me reading this book in one seating. I just couldn’t put it down until I finish it. It’s that good.
Book description and cover image from Goodreads